‹ Back  






November 2007
November 2007

Table of Contents

Family Matters
Living Green: Greening Your Business
Preventing falls key for seniors
Lifted licences: Should Dad or Mom still be driving?
Our family was created by adoption
12th Annual Festival of Trees: Getting into the spirit of Christmas
Remembrance Day: Honouring those who served
Let them play: A case for cold dinners
Help fill the food bank shelves
Nature and Art: One Woman's Passion
For Art’s Sake
Faces of Education: Teacher brings students into her world
Explore Powell River



Family Matters
Start and finish are much the same
By Isabelle Southcott

Life is a funny thing. We come into this world as naked as a jaybird. We’re helpless and dependent on others. We need someone to feed us, to change our diapers, to tend to our every need. But as we grow we become more and more independent until finally, one day, we can fly on our own.

Once we leave the nest our parents created we look to create our own nest. We busily accumulate all the “stuff” we need (or think we need) to be comfortable and raise our own family. Then suddenly one day, we wake up and realize that all this stuff doesn’t make us happy. We don’t need two cars. We don’t need 20 pairs of shoes, a house, a camper, and a cottage. We don’t need three sets of dishes. (In fact we never needed most of it but once the kids are gone we have no use for it).

So we begin to downsize. We move into a smaller house. One closer to the doctor’s office and shops. One that takes less time to clean and one that requires less furniture. We get rid of all that stuff that once seemed so necessary.

We begin to look deeper until we discover what makes us happy. Really happy. And only then do we begin to live life to its fullest.

As we enter the autumn of our life we become more and more dependent on others. We slow down and have more time to reflect and as we think about life we realize how important our connections with others are.

It isn’t about money. It isn’t about status. It isn’t about power. What’s most important in life are people.

As we journey through our days and nights we realize all these things. I still have a long way to go until I join the senior crowd and get to ride for free on BC Ferries during the weekdays but every now and then another insight pops into my head.

Our journey takes us in a full circle. We begin our lives being dependent on others and quite often, we finish our lives in the same way. Many older people need help eating, dressing, and getting to appointments and activities. They become hard of hearing. Their eyesight fails. They have to give up driving and begin to feel more and more isolated. Friends die. Their world shrinks. Adult diapers are needed. Once again, they become dependent on others.

Dealing with and accepting emotional and physical changes isn’t easy. When it comes to physical changes, it can be downright humiliating. How can one’s body betray them when they feel just the same inside? It’s so difficult to accept that we can’t do what we once did.

Although we can’t do everything we did when we were younger there are still many things we can do. Seniors have so much to offer. It just takes them a little more time and they might need a little help doing it. Remember, patience is a virtue.

While all these changes are taking place it is so important to remain connected. If you don’t you’ll become isolated, your world will shrink and you’ll become lonely. And loneliness is scary because we need each other. Remain connected to the community. To family. To friends. Because after all, its people that matter, not stuff.




Living Green
By Emma Levez Larocque

Connected to the Planet's Health

There are some people in this world who make you think, “That’s the way I want to be living when I’m older.” That’s how I felt when I met Don Johnson. He is, at 68 years old, one of the healthiest, happiest people I know. He is fit and energetic, and living his life to its fullest. I recently spent a day with Don and his wife Fay at their cabin on Texada Island. Though I have known Don for six years, I learned a lot more about him and his philosophies that day, and my admiration for him grew.

I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that most people want to be healthy, active, and happy into their senior years. We all know that eating good foods and getting a good amount of exercise will help us to be healthy people. But knowing and doing can be two different things. What I see in Don is a life that really has been lived, to this point, by those principles.

Fit for LifeHe has been vegetarian since 1963, and vegan (meaning his diet includes no animal products) since 1992. His reasons incorporate not only his belief that a plant-based diet is better for the human body, but also a respect and reverence for life that he first started considering when he read the works of Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer in his 20s. In recent years Don has become more involved in organic and local food movements, staying true to his belief in the importance of taking an interest in where our food comes from.
Activity has always been a big part of Don’s life. He has played team sports, like football and baseball, and he has been involved in kayaking, swimming, and tennis. He has been a runner for years—to this day he runs an hour and a half every second or third day, teaches tennis, and continues to partake in many of the other sports he has enjoyed all his life.

But it’s not only diet and activity that contribute to Don’s good health—and this is perhaps what I find most inspiring and interesting about him. It’s what he surrounds himself with, and in turn what he is surrounded by. Positive energy, good relationships, love, and giving something back to other people and the community and the planet.

“Having a wonderful wife is extremely important [to being healthy],” he says, grinning at Fay. “Loving others and being able to show that love is a part of it—generally having good relationships with other people.”

Giving has also been an important part of living a balanced life, he says. He gives back to the community locally as a member of the BOMB Squad, helping to maintain trails and build bridges. He makes time for his four children, and now his grandchildren. Fay remembers several years ago when one of their daughters was going to school in Bangkok, Thailand, and she invited her dad to go trekking in the Himalayas with her. At first he was a little hesitant, as he and Fay had just retired and moved to Powell River.

“I said to him, ‘Are you crazy?’” Fay laughs. “’How many kids do you know who would want their dad to go with them?’”

“So I went,” Don remembers with a smile. “It was a wonderful month. And when I got back home, I wrote a letter to the rest of my kids saying, ‘Your dad is available for adventure trips!’” Since then Don has taken trips—some a day, some a week or longer—with all of his children. All you have to do is look at his face as he talks about it to know how much that time has brought to his life.

In recent years a sense of inner emotional peace has become increasingly important to Don. He has become involved in Tai Chi, meditation and energy healing.

“I was really sceptical about energy healing at first,” he admits. “It’s so different from our western way of thinking, but it has really helped me grow a lot as an individual.”

I realized during my day with Don and Fay that the reason he invited me to spend the day at the cabin was that this simple and magnificent place says so much about who he is as a person. It is a major force in what makes him healthy and happy today. It is a quiet, understated cottage perched on a cliff with a million-dollar view. It’s remote and difficult to get to, and it’s the reason Don and Fay moved to Powell River.

“This cabin has helped us to enjoy the simplicity of life,” Don says. “There is no power—and we like it that way. It’s so nice to be able to come out here and to be so close to nature, the ocean, the forest, and the peace and quiet. I watch the sun rise here sometimes and I think, ‘That sun has been coming up over those mountains for a million years.’ That thought brings stability to my life. The long-term connection is important to me.”

The connections are all there: a diet that considers one’s own health, other creatures, and the planet; an active lifestyle that encourages an appreciation of the outdoors; loving relationships with family and friends; and an understanding of and reverence for nature. Together these things illustrate a life lived with intention, care and love.



Preventing falls key for seniors
By Ron Koros

Eighty-eight year-old Lois Ferguson says: “the older I get the more I shuffle my feet.”

In August, Lois shuffled down the hallway in her daughter Fran’s home towards the room she stays in on her summer visits. The hallway seems light enough, she thought, but as she approached her room the hallway darkened. She stretched a bit to reach around the doorjamb and turn on her bedroom light. Lois’s feet crossed as she leaned and she fell to the floor breaking her hip.

November has been named Seniors Fall & Injury Prevention month. That’s probably not the kind of article that Lois wants to be featured in but she is happy to share her story, for the benefit of others, nonetheless.

Lois Ferguson is not a household name in Powell River but her daughter Fran (Frances) Ferguson has lived here for five years and operates a practice as a Registered Clinical Counsellor. That’s what has brought Lois to Powell River for visits the last few summers, but now she’s not sure what her future holds.

After three days at St. Josephs in Comox for full hip and joint replacement surgery, Lois spent three more weeks at Powell River General Hospital and has received weekly physiotherapy since then. Lois said the care she received, throughout, was excellent. She’s getting around again with her walker, just slower, with a little more shuffling and a lot less confidence. “I’ve always been an independent person,” says Lois who married her husband Theodore in 1951. Together they operated a farm 15 miles east of Winnipeg for over 50 years until Theodore passed away at the age of 84. He was too weak to recover from breaking his hip after trying to climb out of his hospital bed. Lois’s two sons took over the day-to-day operation of the farm and Lois continued to stay there and stay involved.

“Powell River is beautiful,” she says, “but I still think of the farm outside of Winnipeg as home, and I have four grand children and three great grand children back there. I also think my bones are too old to adjust to a different climate. This dampness penetrates the arthritis in every one of my joints, but I don’t know if it’s possible for me to go back to the farm.”

“Fran is a loving daughter,” Lois notes, “and she gives me all the freedom in the world, but now I can’t do much with that freedom. I like to be productive and I feel guilty at the end of the day when I realize how little I’ve done. Yesterday I didn’t wake up till noon,” she says with a guilty tinge to her voice. “I’ve lived a blessed life, but this accident has put a real damper on things,” she says with a laugh.

I ask Lois what advice she would give to others? “Make sure everything is well lit, keep your floors clean and free of obstacles and wear good shoes or slippers.”

This years Seniors Flu & Pneumo Clinics at the Powell River Recreation Complex (Nov. 6, 7 & 8 from 9:30 – 2:30), will feature a Fall Prevention Fair. For more information please call Powell River Community Health at 604-485-3310.

There will be lots of information on Fall Prevention at the kiosk in the Senior Citizens Association coffee area. A physiotherapist, pharmacist and public health nurse will be on hand to help seniors assess their current fall risk level and offer suggestions to hopefully extend and possibly improve the quality of life they are currently enjoying. A feature of the fair will be the Pharmacist Brown Bag program. It’s an opportunity for seniors to brown bag their medications and bring them to the pharmacist and have them reviewed for possible negative interactions or side affects that might increase their risk for a fall.

Remember the words of senior folk singers, Peter, Paul & Mary…“tripping in the 60s” is not the same as “tripping in your 60s.”



Lifted licences: Should Dad or Mom still be driving?
By Gerry Gray

Age is just a number on your driver’s Licence.

Does one ever forget the thrill of taking that first solo trip in the family car? Mom and Dad standing in the driveway feverishly fingering their worry beads as junior drives into the wonderful world of wheels. It’s a great and unforgettable feeling that stays with one the rest of their life.

However, near the end of life’s road there is a stop sign and it means your driving days are coming to and end. It’s a traumatic experience for you and the thousands of other Canadians in the same circumstances.

There is no certain age when your Licence is lifted, and no universal reason. It most certainly has to do with your health, state of mind, eyesight, and other health issues as to whether it is time to hang up the keys for good. Difficult as it may be, it really is a blessing in disguise because then you won’t be in danger of causing an accident.

In this province drivers are required to take medical examinations before they can renew their drivers’ licences at the age of 80 and then be tested every two years thereafter. These road tests will probably be the first since their initial drivers’ licence.

Seniors seem to be high on the agenda when Safe Driving issues are brought up. They’re lumped into the one category although the process of aging varies along with the deficiencies associated with driving. A driver in their 70s may have handicaps that impair driving skills whereas a person in their 80s may not…or vice versa. There is no common age when one’s driving becomes a hazard to other motorists.

Governments cannot draw a line and rule that everyone over a certain age must forfeit their driver’s licence. There are too many variables in aging.

A rapidly growing population of seniors will mean a greater percentage of drivers in the next decade will be 65 and older. And with medical advances in longevity most of these drivers will be in their 80s.

So what does all this mean to you and I? How can we extend our capacity to manage driving safely? There are more and more agencies springing up dedicated to refreshing driving skills and how to keep yourself behind the wheel as long as possible. A nationwide network exists to prolong the driving lives of senior drivers who have responsible driving records. The BCAA has established a foundation for its Mature Driving Program and the Canadian Driving Research Initiative for Vehicular Safety has a Mature Driver Program.

Malaspina College, here in Powell River,  recently announced an ElderCollege series of seminars which carries in its’ curriculum “Safe Driving for Seniors” conducted by Tim Schewe, a retired RCMP officer who has taken up the cause of helping seniors with traffic rules and giving advice on how to examine their own driving habits.

One should have a discussion with their doctor to talk about medication and how it could impair driving judgement under various conditions.

The trick to being on the road longer and safer is to constantly be aware of your responsibilities. Sure you may have to go slower (to the chagrin of those behind you). You also need to make sure your mind is on what you doing with the vehicle. As a matter of fact, younger drivers with ears glued to cell phones or Ipods, or Blackberrys would do well to attend some of these safe driving courses!

If the inevitable happens and your licence is lifted you’ve lost a great deal of freedom. You can prolong this traumatic event by examining your driving habits and listening to those who drive with you. Sooner or later you’ll be grounded but why not make it later rather than sooner?




Our family was created by adoption
By Crystal Gallant

Like many young couples after getting married, my husband Shawn and I decided we wanted to start a family but it turns out it wasn’t that simple. After our dreams of having biological children were shattered by infertility we looked to the Ministry for Children and Families to adopt. That was over eight years ago.

There was a lot of paperwork to be done from the application to adapt, to the home study, to the completion of an adoption education program to a child proposal, to placement. I remember feeling so nervous when the social worker came to do our home study, was our house clean enough?

All About FamilyOur son Jakob, who is now six, came to us as a foster child placement when he was an infant. Jakob was born addicted to drugs and alcohol. When he became available for adoption we jumped at the chance for him to stay with us, we had already bonded with and loved him as our own.

Our second son Andrew, who is now three, was a direct placement, his birthparents chose us to parent him and we have an open adoption with them. Andrew was born with Down Syndrome. When we brought him home I was afraid of sharing how well he was doing developmentally with his birth family for fear that they would want him back but his birth mom reassured me they chose us to parent him.

On our journeys to adoption I would write in my journal and pour out my emotions, which were mostly frustrations when things weren’t going well through the process.

When I look back I know everything we went through was worth it. I can now contrast my earlier days of anxiety, with the joy I feel every time I look into my boys beautiful faces, my children are home forever, and I embrace them with so much love and melt in awe when they say “Mommy.”

Shawn and I have been on a few adoptive parents panels, telephone support answering questions and telling our adoption story to prospective adoptive parents for our local Ministry for Children and Families. My motivation for telling our adoption story to anyone who will listen to my jabber is to encourage other people, families to adopt as well, Adoption is a great way to create or add to your family.

We were in the process of adopting our third child when we found out I was expecting…. On August 25, 2007 our family excitedly welcomed a baby girl, Ella Amelia Faith, our miracle baby!

My heart is so full of love for my children, I’m bubbling over with happiness. We are a busy family, but wouldn’t have it any other way, life is never dull. November is Adoption Awareness Month and November 1-7 is National Down Syndrome Awareness Week.


12th Annual Festival of Trees
Getting into the spirit of Christmas

The 12th annual Festival of Trees kicks off the Christmas season on November 20 at the Town Centre Hotel.

This year’s festival runs until November 25. “It’s a six day event this year rather than 12,” explained festival coordinator Yvonne Boese.

Festical of TreesSponsors, decorations, trees and wreaths are carefully planned for each year’s event. “For sponsors it’s a great way to promote your business and support a great cause. For tree decorators and wreath makers it’s a great way to showcase your artistic talents. And for those of you who just want to volunteer a couple of hours - it’s a great way to meet new and old friends as they pop in to experience this spectacular event.”

The festival will officially open with a Wine and Appy Buffet on Tuesday, November 20 followed by the Lighting of the Trees reception and Caroling at 7 pm.

A craft night is scheduled for November 22. “You can make either a centerpiece or a wreath that you can take home,” said Boese.

A new event this year is the Santa Claus brunch on November 24. Children who attend the brunch will receive a gift and have their photo taken with Santa.

You will not want to miss the closing Gala Dinner and Live and Silent Auctions on November 25 at 6 pm. This is your last chance to bid on your favourite tree or wreath and your only chance to bid on various prize packages donated by generous businesses.

Of course, everyone is welcome to just come in to see the event, soak up some incredible Christmas atmosphere and vote for their favourites. But, more importantly, you can take this unique opportunity to purchase a beautifully decorated tree or wreath to get your home or office ready for the Christmas season!

There will be 19 large decorated trees and over 20 wreaths this year as well as several children’s trees. “We’ll also have a silent auction during the week for items that have been donated but some select big ticket items will just be available for the live auction,” said Boese.

It takes many volunteers to run the festival, she said. “The community really steps-up and that is why it is so successful.”

The festival of trees is the Powell River Association for Community Living’s largest fundraising event. Proceeds from this event go to PRACL’s Wish Fund. This fund helps provide PRACL clients with opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise including youth projects, musical instruments, camping equipment, specialized equipment, therapeutic riding lessons and emergency support.

For more information or tickets for any of the events please call PRACL at 604 485‑6411 (Ext 0) or Boese at 604 485‑5663.



Remembrance Day: Honouring those who served
By Gerry Gray

Every November 11, citizens gather before various cenotaphs throughout the country to pay homage to those soldiers, sailors or airmen who have been killed in action. Each year the list grows longer as Canadians accept the challenge of preserving democracy in many foreign countries.

Every Armistice Day my father, a veteran, would take our family to Victory Square in downtown Vancouver to attend memorial services honouring the soldiers who died in the First Great War. I don’t know how old I was before I began to understand what it was all about but I recall seeing hundreds of men and women filling Hastings and Pender Street facing the Square.

The war had been over for just a few years and death was still fresh in the memories of those attending the ceremonies. I remember important looking people laying flowers at the foot of the cenotaph and others dressed in uniforms. I heard sobbing during the two-minute silence honouring the dead. The cold, overcast November day added a sombre grey backdrop to the gathering.

Following the ceremonies the crowd drifted away and we went home with hardly a word spoken between us. As young as I was I knew that something special had occurred and although I’ve attended many Remembrance Day services since, I’ll always see the faces of the men who fought alongside those they were there to remember.

The First World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars yet 21 years later the world was engulfed in an even greater holocaust, World War II. Again, Canadians were fighting and dying for a cause that was none of our doing but world freedom was at stake. Less than five years after this war ended Canadians were yet again dying on foreign soil. Korea was a bloody affair that solved nothing but took many more Canadian lives. It seems our Armed Forces have forever been deployed to faraway places trying to keep peace between warring countries and are always in harms way. Some have been killed in places that the average Canadian never even heard about like Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia and now Afghanistan.

Remembrance Day is a time for all generations of Canadians to give pause from daily activities and think how much we have done trying to keep the world on an even keel. A country with a population of less than 36 million has sacrificed thousands upon thousands of men and women over the years helping others fight their battles.

When you give pause and remember those who fought for our freedom, don’t just remember be grateful. Give thanks to those men and women who put their lives on the line for us to enjoy the freedoms we live by. Canadians are blessed with a democracy second to none. All the rights for a good life are ours entrenched in law.

So when you buy a poppy from a volunteer member of the Canadian Legion think of all the good things about being a Canadian and remember why we still have them.


Let them play: A case for cold dinners
By Ryan Barfoot

A friend brought something interesting to my attention this summer: “Kids do not play outside anymore.”

I didn’t respond immediately. Instead, I stumbled on the gravity of this observation: this summer, my neighbourhood was shockingly quiet. It seemed it was a summer void of the bug hunt, the bike ride and the accompanied skinned knee. Void of the little people laughter and void of mothers warning of a cooling dinner. In short, void of the unstructured outdoor play we all grew up with. I decided to look into this a bit further to see if this phenomenon was part of a larger societal trend.

Ryan BarfootIt seems that children’s lives are busier or perhaps more cluttered than ever before; there is no shortage of activities that compete with unstructured outdoor play. Sandwiched together between breakfast, lunch, and dinner is a six-hour school day, followed by a dress rehearsal, a soccer practice, and piano lessons. What time is left in the day to play freely outside? Not much, but remarkably enough time to watch TV. According to Statistics Canada, Children spend an average of two hours a day sedentary, watching TV (StatsCan, 2006).

Furthermore, a study conducted by Jennifer Shapka at the University of British Columbia found that daily Internet use of young people ages 10-15 can be as high as 8.2 hours. It is astonishing that children can squeeze this much passive indoor activity into a day.

It is said we are what we eat. Perhaps we are also what we experience. Children have a remarkable capacity to absorb information. Consider an American study suggesting young people can identify upwards of a thousand corporate logos, but rarely more than 10 plants and animals native to their backyard. What does this say about the state of our current relationship to our natural heritage?

According to most anthropologists, our species has existed for approximately three million years. For the bulk of our collective experience we have roamed, keenly attuned to subtle nuances of an ever-changing landscape. Six or seven generations ago humanity industrialized. From the beginning of industrialization to now represents approximately 0.00007% of our experience. This change has had a profound effect on our species. In short, it could be argued that our hardware is not compatible with our operating system.  

Child development specialists have long warned of the alarmingly few unstructured hours young people have in this life—particularly outdoors. With each new day it appears that specialists toss out a newly coined disorder, physiological or biophysical, relating to our dwindling time spent outside. For example, Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD), a term coined by Richard Louv, essentially claims that the decline in the amount of time children are spending outside has resulted in a wide range of behavioural problems. This is simply one of many possible repercussions of children spending less time playing freely outside; the breadth of this issue is astonishing if we consider it.

Our relationship to nature is reflected in how we design our cities, our transportation and how we communicate with each other. It underpins the foundation of our education and political systems. Indeed, our relationship to the earth shapes every aspect of modern civilization—it is who we are. Clearly, it is inconceivable to solve our burdening environmental issues without redefining our relationship to the natural world through experiential means. To the benefit of ourselves, our communities and our world, the open air should once again be filled with the laughter of children playing.



Help fill the food bank shelves
Funding cuts cause Food Bank to look elsewhere for help
By Gerry Gray

This year the Powell River and District Food Bank came of age, having been incorporated in 1986, it has been supplying our needy citizens with groceries ever since.

“Food Banks came into being following the severe recession in the early 1980s,” said Gina Kendrick, manager of the food bank. “Some citizens realized others were going hungry through no fault of their own and decided to do something about it.”

In Powell River food distribution started in 1984 and it was incorporated as a society two years later. Food Banks weren’t just in Powell River. They were and are all through the province. They are for anyone on income assistance, for those who have disabilities and are unable to work or even those on pensions who don’t have enough to cover their monthly expenses.

“To be a recipient of Food Bank assistance an application is filled out and a personal interview is conducted,” said Kendrick. “Only those in real need get food.”

“Our 11 workers are volunteers and they a terrific group,” she said. In fact we have 24 people on the volunteer waiting list which makes it possible for us to fill in when anyone can’t make it in to work.”

The Powell River Food Bank receives financing from the generosity of our businesses and citizens of Powell River. It’s amazing how generous the people of this city are,” said Kendrick. “Catalyst donates, as does city council, which had to cut back its grant this year, and other merchants who donate food.

The food bank needs funding to keep their stockpile. On a tour of the premises Kendrick described how food was dispersed in different size boxes for different families. “These boxes contain enough for four days and comprise essential goods for a household.” The contents were mainly pastas, vegetables (canned) bread, rice and flour.

“December is our best month for donations of money and food. But because we can’t rely on income we can’t budget ourselves over a year. As I said, last year our city grant was cut from $10,000 to $8,000 and we have been told that there will be no further grants from the city. Catalyst’s annual party has been cancelled and that raised $8,000 and about $3,000 worth of groceries. We won’t be getting that this year.”

Despite the severe cutbacks, Kendrick is optimistic. “Something always comes down the pike to help us out. Either a large private donation or someone starts a fund drive for the Food Bank. I can optimistically say that there will always be groceries here for people in real need. The citizens of Powell River wouldn’t stand for it any other way.”


Nature and art: One woman's passion
By Terry Ludwar

Elizabeth Abbott is one of Powell River’s treasures.

A lifetime as a naturalist, artist, and photographer attests to her abiding love of nature. All of these things were evident on a recent trip to Mitlenatch Island with her, her husband Bill, Christine Woolcott, and myself on a fast boat from Lund piloted by Ben Bouchard.

Elizabeth AbbottThis day trip yielded memories, more photos, and a fuller understanding of her life and her connection to this wild island, which is now a provincial nature park. Mitlenatch is seven kilometres south of Cortes, 33 kilometres west of Powell River, measures about 36 square hectares, and has the largest seabird colony on the Georgia Strait.

Mitlenatch, a first nations name, has more than one meaning. The Coast Salish translation is ‘calm waters all around’ and the Sliammon where metl means calm and nach means posterior. To the Kwakwak’awakw people it is mah-kwee-lay-lah which translates as “it looks close, but seems to move away as you approach it.”

It is our Galapagos—a volcanic island not only with thousands of sea birds in season, but bull California sea lions, harbour seals, BC’s largest garter snakes, and again in season, dazzling displays of native flowering bulbs and plants. The sheer number of birds provides such quantities of droppings that it creates fertile conditions for plant life.

Elizabeth remembers that Mitlenatch was a safe haven for commercial fish trollers who anchored there at night and during inclement weather. Her father, a fisherman of Danish ancestry, provided for a family of nine daughters, four sons, and a wife. In the 1940s, a fish scow was anchored in the small east bay so that the fishermen did not have to travel long distances to sell their catches. While Dad fished, Elizabeth, her sisters, and brothers would play and explore the island. “We also picked Saskatoon berries, until this area was destroyed by a fire.”

As a girl of twelve, she remembers watching a yellow warbler’s nest as the birds raised their family. Drinking water came from two watering holes, which came from underground springs.
She is familiar with the Manson family who once owned the island. They raised cattle and sheep there and finally sold the island to the Provincial Government, who in 1961, designated it a provincial nature park.

Elizabeth Claussen lived with her family on Cortes until 1957, when she married Bill Abbott. They have lived happily in Powell River ever since.

Both art and the appreciation of nature rely on ones eyes and ears. The ongoing development of the simple skills of looking and listening can increase ones creative urges, the pleasures of learning, and the love of the natural world.

Elizabeth’s “eye for” and “memory of” what she sees have led to many artistic accomplishments. Not only award-winning photos, but also small paintings of birds using instant coffee as a monochromatic medium. These are a pure delight to look at. She uses watercolours, coloured pencils, and drawings in pen and ink to render birds, flowers, and insects.

I have never forgotten my first encounter with her work about nine years ago at an art exhibition held at the Powell River museum. It was a stunning photo of our native yellow pond lily. Throughout her work one gets a feeling of the marvellous and a perfect attention to detail in the smallest bird, our native flowers, or insects.

In years past she has shown me a master copy of a multiple medium book using photos, pen and ink drawings, and watercolours. Its title is Bright Wings and Petals. It is a counterpoint of our local birds and flowers.

Throughout her work is a quality of liveliness and brightness. The delight in her work is everywhere, her smile always ready, with always a twinkle in her eye.

We all came home from Mitlenatch with a renewed awe for this wild place. A place of timelessness—bleached bird bones and skulls, the wind, and the ocean.

Both Elizabeth and Bill remain active as members of the Malaspina Naturalists, a photo club, and can often be seen out and about pursuing more diversity, more colour, more detail, more beauty!




For Art's Sake

By Jessica Colasanto

Now that November is bringing cooler days, indoor activities always seem welcome. Taking in the local art scene is a perfect way to take out the chill.

Last month brought us Meghan Hildebrand’s October Prober show at Bemused Bistro, with many new works as well as some rare “oldies” that were a treat to see. A good crowd turned out for her sneak peak.

With the season of giving fast approaching, don’t forget what a perfect gift art makes: it can bring inspiration and enjoyment to every day, it appreciates in value over time, and while some may hesitate to purchase artwork for themselves, there’s never any guilt in indulging someone else.

Robert Mackle will be displaying a selection of his photographs at Bemused Bistro from November 13th through the 30th. Mackle creates intriguing images by capturing textures and shapes from our every day surroundings, removing them from their context, and presenting each in a custom frame that echoes some special element of the image.

Ursula Medley hosts a Studio Art Sale on November 17 & 18 from 3-5pm at 10989 Dunlop Road (off Phillips Road in Lang Bay.) Medley’s art uses minimal strokes to depict the essence of life. She captures inspiration drawn from nature, life, and the dynamic aspect of an ever-changing environment. As one collector states, her technique “lets the viewer use their own imagination to connect the image.” Her work is well known throughout British Columbia and is collected nationally and internationally. More information can be found at www.ursulamedley.com.

Medley teams up with Louise Gloslee for their exhibition L’Amore: Images from here and there, sponsored by the Malaspina Art Society. Inspired by a recent painting trip to Tuscany and Venice, Gloslee and Medley are thrilled to show their paintings of an unforgettable experience. The opening reception will be held at the Rodmay Hotel on November 30th from 7-9pm and is free to the public; the exhibition will run through January 2nd.

Gloslee and Medley are passionately moved by the beauty around them, be it in the land of the renaissance masters or in Powell River’s landscape. Both artists work in oil using old masters techniques and recipes while interpreting their personal association with the landscape and culture to capture the essence of the moment. The artists will donate 20% of sales to the Malaspina Art Society Scholarship Fund.

ArtReach is hosting The Great Animation Event this month, a fun based workshop for youth to learn both traditional and digital based animation techniques with instructor Giovanni Spezzacatena. Gian has a strong background in the media arts; he has been working in digital and mixed media, and teaching workshops and courses in design, web technologies, traditional and digital animation, and fine arts since 1997. His more recent work can be explored at www.rabideye.com. This $20 workshop will be held at the Academy of Music’s Visual Art Room from 10am to noon on November 17; call 604-414-7020 for details. Imagine the fun of giving some hand-crafted animation as a gift!

Local artist Wendy Brown is re-opening Global Cheez this month. Her little shop at 4698 Marine Avenue sells t-shirts and sweatshirts imprinted with her whimsical cartoon images. And be sure to visit the bazaars and craft fairs throughout the holiday season; they’re a great place to find unique gifts and support our local artists at the same time.



Faces of Education

Teacher brings students into her world

Betty Wilson has been a pioneer in the field of increasing awareness about the importance of including First Nations culture in Powell River schools.

Wilson, who has been teaching for almost 30 years, grew up in Sliammon. After graduating from high school she attended the University of British Columbia where she obtained her teaching degree. From there, she spent a year teaching in Victoria working with students in an alternate program. “I learned a lot during that year,” she smiled.

Soon after graduating, Wilson came back to Powell River as the First Nations teacher. “I taught language enrichment at James Thomson,” she said. “I’m a promoter of the inclusion of the First Nations culture, stories, traditions and language within the school system. It is so important to give the First Nations culture validity.”

Wilson was part of a committee that developed the Sliammon language program for School District 47 almost 15 years ago along with Bill Bailey, Mary James, Roy Francis and Sliammon elders Mary George, Elsie Paul, the late Sue Pielle and the late Joe Mitchell.

The Sliammon language program begins in kindergarten and continues to grade 12. Sliammon language is accepted as part of the language entrance requirements at the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University.

Powell River has a healthy First Nations population who live both on and off the reserve at Sliammon. What makes this community unique is that we have only one First Nations community here whereas on Vancouver Island many communities have several different First Nations communities.

Wilson’s mission both inside and outside of the school system has been to try to make people understand that being First Nations is just as important as being any other person within the nation. “I’m interested in educating the students and the community at large,” she explained. She, along with the staff from the Powell River Museum put together a puppet show about the First Nations people that was shown to the community at large.

Although she is nearing the end of her teaching career (she plans to retire in a couple of years), there are still a few things she wants to accomplish before leaving.

Wilson is currently working on Science lessons for kindergarten to grade 7. Last year’s kindergarten lessons, which were created by teacher Carolyn Roberts, focus on local plant and animal life and can be found on the School District’s website www.sd47.bc.ca under Aboriginal Education.

Working on this project has been a labour of love for Wilson. “I went to Carolyn Roberts’ class at James Thomson where we did a lesson about the senses and plants.” They used salmonberry and thimbleberry shoots.

Teacher Robyn Scoville did a lesson with Wilson on herring and their life cycle for grade seven. “I did an interview with two elders. I was very focussed on the herring and then we stopped to have a cup of tea and they went on talking about the whole cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life. They wanted to talk about something that has a bigger scope.”

“The great knowledge held by the First Nations people can benefit society more than they know,” she said. “In school they talk about finding food in a 100 mile radius. Who has more information about food but First Nations people?”

High school English teacher Claire Milliken has incorporated First Nations legends into her English 10 classes. “They were always studying ancient Greek mythology but never First Nations legends before,” Wilson explained. “I brought an elder in to do a story tell and so the unit starts with Old Taul, the wild woman of the woods, a creation story and a flood story.”

By integrating drumming, carving and moccasin making into schools, all Powell River students have their horizons broadened by glimpsing other cultures. Not long ago Wilson took an English 12 class out to Sliammon for a bit of cross cultural exposure. “I bring you into my world,” she explained.

These days the school district is piloting an English 12 First Nations poetry unit. “The whole idea of school is to expose students and broaden their horizons so I like to create curriculum side by side with the teachers,” explained Wilson.

A drama lesson Wilson developed with teacher Alison Mayert ended with a Sliammon story of Thuns traveling to the upper world. “We travelled with the students to present the play to literature and literacy conferences.”

There is a lot we can learn from First Nations people. “When you are weaving and you look at my granny’s basket you’ll see it is so mathematical and precise.”

The lessons First Nations incorporated into everyday life are evident everywhere. All you have to do is open your eyes and express a willingness to learn.

Although the past has not been without struggles, the future looks promising. “We already have a couple of Sliammon First Nations people in the process of getting their education degrees," she said. Currently Wilson is the only person from Sliammon working for School District 47 with an education degree.

With luck they’ll return to Powell River and pick up where Wilson leaves off.



Explore Powell River

November 2007: Click to enlarge
by Elizabeth Abbott