Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Stop your censorship, BC Ferries

                                 Annabel Lyon
                                                      — Heather Conn photo

It shocked me this week to discover that BC Ferries has banned the sale of Annabel Lyon’s award-winning book The Golden Mean on its ferries. That’s outrageous!


The novel, which tells of Aristotle serving as tutor to Alexander the Great, has a cibachrome photographic image on its cover: a naked man lies face down and bareback on a white horse, viewed from the side and overhead.



Deborah Marshall, a BC Ferries spokeswoman, told the Aug. 27 Vancouver Sun (they were actually scooped by Agence France-Presse) that the private, British-Columbia-wide company chooses “non-controversial” and “family appropriate” books in their gift shop. I guess that must be why they carry so many fashion magazines with covers showing women’s cleavage popping out and men’s sports magazines that show jocks in such form-clinging swimsuits that they might as well be nude. 


An artsy photo on the cover of a creative work is deemed obscene, while magazines sold on BC Ferries carry photos of barely clad models, both male and female?  This is a case of ridiculous censorship.


A BC Ferries committee apparently chooses the books that appear in the ferry bookstore. Do its members also choose the magazines for sale in the same area? I haven’t looked lately, but I’d certainly guess that they carry Playboy and similar publications. Images of nude women are okay but not ones of men?


BC Ferries reportedly has a tradition of banning books that feature any nudity, according to The Vancouver Sun. In recent years, this has included Wreck Beach, a history’s of Vancouver’s nude beach, and Stephen Vogler’s Only in Whistler, which includes a historical photo of four nude female skiers shown from behind.


It’s time to grow up, BC Ferries. The image on this book cover is innocuous and not presented in any context that suggests lewdness, pornography, exploitation, or abuse. If you ban this book, then you’ve got to ban every media ad in your magazines that objectifies a man or woman and depicts him or her either partially or not-at-all clothed.


Banning Lyons’ book for any reason is preventing potential readers from enjoying a well-researched and top, original piece of historical fiction. Her book won Canada’s Rogers Writers’ Trust award and was nominated for our country’s two other highest literary recognitions, the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award. Lyon and her publisher, her book and its readers, deserve far better treatment than what BC Ferries has given them. Shame on you.

August 31, 2010 at 7:05 pm Comment (1)

Car maintenance 101: How not to keep the windshield clean

A few weeks ago, after adding power steering fluid to my old Honda Accord, I noticed the plastic receptable under the hood where the windshield wiper fluid goes. I thought: “Might as well fill that up too while I’m at it.”


I went into our garage and looked to the open shelves on the right, where my husband and I keep various containers of liquids that cars require. I grabbed the large one on the ground that said “windshield wiper fluid,” took it to the car, opened the cap, and poured it into the open plastic container.


Within seconds, I abruptly stopped pouring. The liquid coming out of the container was thick and brown — nothing like windshield wiper fluid. Omigod. I realized: It must be spent oil. My husband obviously must have used that plastic container for storing used oil and never disposed of it.


Lucky for him, he was working thousands of miles away at the time. When we discussed this mishap on the phone, he said: “Didn’t you look at the colour of the liquid in the container?” No, I didn’t. I read the label, took it on face value, and poured. I suggested: “Can you please label it next time?”


“How much did you pour in?” he asked. “A quarter cup, half a cup . . .?”


“I don’t know.” I truly didn’t, and don’t. I’m guessing that it was not even a half-cup.


My husband emailed me me a detailed, step-by-step description of how I could try and get the oil out. Fill the receptable with water and wait for the oil to rise, like my own BP oil spill disaster. Then use paper towels to try and soak it up, and put some dish soap in afterwards. Make sure that you’ve got newspapers spread out on the ground underneath. To save myself the hassle, he recommended that I take the car to the garage and let them remedy the matter.


I’m too embarrassed to do that. I’ll try the soak-it-up-yourself method first.

August 31, 2010 at 6:41 pm Comments (0)

At last — I saw the grey whale

For weeks I’ve been hearing about the grey whale that’s hanging around not far offshore, here on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. Last Sunday, it spent the whole day off Roberts Creek Beach, close to where I live, but I was away. People I know have seen it off Snickett Park in Sechelt; I went there the following day, but it didn’t show. A friend of mine with an ocean view has watched it almost every day in Halfmoon Bay. Several visitors I know, here just for the day, have seen it.


Some people claim that it’s a mother and calf. Others say that they have seen a pod. Yet another said he thinks it’s a humpback whale, because he saw what looked like ridges on its side. With all of these descriptions and stories circulating, I was beginning to think that I was fated never to view the beautiful beast. 


After listening to friends’ accounts of awe and admiration in seeing this wild sea creature, I felt as if I was truly missing out. After all, it is rare to see a grey whale off our shores, particularly one that remains about 15 metres or so from land. A U.S. television news report recently stated that if a whale stays close to shore, it means that it’s sick and dying, according to scientists. I don’t know if that applies to the whale in our region or not.


Well, this week, I finally saw it, and it was a thrill to watch it. I was driving from Roberts Creek to Sechelt before 9 a.m. and wondered why there was such a traffic bottleneck in Davis Bay. Then I noticed people on the pier and shore staring out to sea, looking in the same direction. That’s when I saw it. It astounded me how close it was.


In Davis Bay, a square wooden float, which people use as an informal diving platform, lies anchored about 20 metres or so offshore. The whale was between this float and the shore. You could see the length of its body underwater by the smooth water surface it left above itself. Periodically, you could see its vertical fin, encrusted with white barnacles, poke above the water. Its tail also flicked above the surface occasionally. Every so often, it would blow air through its blow hole. I assumed that it was feeding. It was moving very slowly, not like the orcas that I’ve seen.


A few people in a rowboat were off to its side, about 20 metres or so away, just watching it. I parked the car and went over and looked at it from the beach. What a glorious sight. I feel truly blessed to have gotten a glimpse of it. I had my camera in the car, but did not think to bring it out; I felt that I wanted to have a direct visual connection with the whale, not place a barrier between us.


It buoys me to know that in today’s technology-crazed society, in which a multitude of images and messages are flashed at people every day, many can still find the sight of a wild whale a remarkable treat, worthy of stopping their car. Maybe there’s still hope for our species.

August 20, 2010 at 12:49 pm Comment (1)

Tzoonie Narrows: a special wilderness spot by the sea

                                                                                                                       — Heather Conn photos

 Art and Aleta Giroux with grandchildren Lindsay (holding pug Molly) and Fraser


What a weekend it was. By day, hiking took us about a kilometre uphill through classic west-coast rainforest of mossy cedars, magnificient firs, creek beds . . .and plenty of bear scat.  At dusk, we dined on delectable grilled sockeye salmon and fresh oysters garnished with sea asparagus. At night, we watched the flickers and dance of light in the sea: the neon array of bioluminescence.


My husband Frank and I just spent a marvellous, too-short time at the Tzoonie Outdoor Adventures Wilderness Resort in the Inland Sea, which is part of British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast west of Vancouver. We arrived on Friday night, after owner Art Giroux loaded us, his grandchildren Lindsay and Fraser, and our gear onto his 23-foot aluminum launch in Sechelt. We zoomed out past kayakers and salmon farms to a blissfully remote patch of beach and woods.



Ah, what silence and beauty this wilderness area offers. Our grand, spacious tent looked out onto mountains reflected in the sea, the low-tide shoreline full of oysters and sea asparagus. Our cluster of tents and small, wood-shingled cabins stood under the shady sweep of old-growth cedars and other trees next to giant ferns and a burbling creek, which served as impromptu fridge for brews and such.


At night, on our queen-sized bed, I heard nothing at all, even after straining my ears to pick up something. Fraser said that the background chortle of the creek directly below his cabin helped him fall asleep easily. In the morning, a kingfisher chittered by the beach and a small flock of seagulls squawked across the water close to the opposite shore. During our entire visit, we saw only two boats go by this idyllic site.


 We brought our own food and enjoyed communal dining in their open kitchen area, which Art has rigged up with solar power and 110-volt lighting. Art and Aleta both provided such warmth and caring, making us feel as if we were part of their family scene.  All of the taps offered fresh spring water for drinking, which was a treat, and I certainly didn’t expect the luxury of a hot shower and a flush toilet.


I joked that above the resort, the looming  mountain of wild forest and no roads (except one inactive logging road) would make the perfect habitat for a sasquatch. This part of the inlet has no dwellings at all for many kilometres on either side.


Although it rained hard for much of Saturday, Frank and I did a short hike in the late afternoon after it eased off. (We admittedly had a lazy day of snoozing and reading.) The forest canopy kept us mostly dry, adding only the light patter of rain on leaves and branches as accompaniment. (I was so grateful for the rain after weeks of dryness and hundreds of fires in B.C.)


Along our hike, I couldn’t resist some ripe thimbleberries, which the bears had obviously not yet touched.  We passed the camp’s 1,000-gallon water tank and a creek with water cascading down smooth, sloping rock. Everywhere, wild greenery offered multi-shades of saturated colour.  


Throughout the property, Art’s brother has built artful driftwood benches that add a cozy touch to the remarkable scenery. On one private spot on the beach, he’s built a homemade wooden swing for two people, the perfect retreat for a couple like us celebrating their anniversary. Sigh. Thanks, Art, Aleta, Lindsay, Fraser, and Molly for making our weekend such a peaceful pleasure.

August 8, 2010 at 5:40 pm Comments (5)

Congrats, Mike, for Special Olympics writing success & ribbons

                                                       — Heather Conn photo

I feel honoured to give recognition to one of my writing clients, Micheal Oswald, 28, who recently won a 2010 Writers Award and trophy from the Special Olympics on the Sunshine Coast (SOSC).


Michael, a Special Olympics athlete and volunteer,  received the trophy at a Special Olympics awards banquet held June 26 at the Gibsons Legion.  The budding reporter won acclaim for his fundraising efforts and coverage of the Sunshine Coast Special Olympics in Amateur Sports News, an Edmonton, AB-based publication that has operated since 1979.


This marks Michael’s first published article and byline and he has since written a second feature in the same newspaper.


“I didn’t expect this [award],” says Michael, a resident of Roberts Creek, BC. “I felt happy to have something published. It’s pretty darn inspiring and has inspired me to keep going.”


In his article in the spring 2010 issue of Amateur Sports News, Michael explains how vital an organization like SOSC is for people like him who have developmental disabilities. (Michael has a developmental disability caused by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.) He writes:


Had it not been for Special O., I might have never done any sports at all. School could not provide the right environment fo me to take part in athletics. No one could understand my needs. I felt that I was ostracized and out of place in the gym.

In Special O., the coaches and volunteers are trained to work with people who have special needs. . . When I find difficulty with certain aspects of the game, they demonstrate and teach me in a way that I can understand. They are always calm, encouraging, and warm.  


In the same feature, Michael writes that his practices are the highlight of his day. He adds: “The love and friendship is more rewarding than any wage in any professional association. . .[T]hrough this wonderful organization, we can complete any goal and attain any dream.”


Besides his writing achievements, Michael took home a third-place medal and two second-place medals at SOSC swim meets last winter in Vancouver and Powell River. Special Olympics on the Sunshine Coast comprises eight sports: basketball; softball; swimming; track and field; soccer; curling; rhythmic gymnastics; and golf. Forty local athletes and 50+ coaches and volunteers participated this year.


Congratulations, Michael. You deserve it. It’s been a delight to work with you on your young adult story that addresses self-esteem, the love of family, and the impact of bullying. I look forward to seeing it in print. I have enjoyed teaching you over the years and hearing your poems and spontaneous abilities with words. Here’s to continued success with your writing.

August 8, 2010 at 4:10 pm Comments (2)

A Journey Within: a local treat of truth and love

                                                                                Front row, from left: Barb, Bob, Heather
                                                                                Back row: Sandra, Robyn; missing: Eva 

After nine days of deep transformational inner work, tears, and a sense of renewed joy, I completed a powerful workshop last month called The Journey Within.


The experience, offered free through the employment centre in Sechelt, BC, far surpassed my expectations. A local job counsellor had recommended it, saying that it went “very deep” and that I was free to drop out at any time. That sounded intriguing. I figured that I would probably leave after a few days, hearing the usual suggestions about aligning your passions with your work, a goal which I’ve already embraced. (Yes, my ego has it all figured out. Ha.)


Gee, was I wrong. Under the loving guidance and openness of facilitator Bet Diening-Weatherston, our group received high-impact guided visualizations, inspirational prompts, and a safe, supportive atmosphere to reach into the darkest places of our subconscious. What a ride it was. Ten of us began, and five of us finished, having developed a visceral bond that comes from sharing one’s stories of pain, new insights, and vulnerability.


We received carefully worded scripts, which incorporate concepts of neuro-linguistic programming, and worked in pairs to address limiting beliefs in our subconscious. These exercises, done with rotating partners,  helped to heal relationships and destructive habits by replacing old inner dialogue and “tapes” with new images and loving words. This interactive process allowed me to make surprising connections between childhood events and adult beliefs and to access long-buried memories. Overall, this allowed a grand reawakening to my deeper Self, the part easily minimized by my impatient ego as impractical and too abstract.

                                                   From left: Debbie, an assistant facilitator, Barb, and Bet

 The entire workshop was focused on emotional wellness and healing, targeting what blocks lie beneath our thoughts and actions and how they link to buried feelings. It felt scary but also remarkably freeing to share myself with new emotional clarity and truth. My heart ached throughout the sessions, even when I was helping others access their pain. This reinforced my sense of interconnectedness and how we all bear deep love and hurt from our  human experience. By releasing my own suffering, I found a clearer path to compassion and forgiveness.


On the last day, we spontaneously voiced love and appreciation to each person, one at a time,  and offered an example of our gifts or talents to the whole group. I was moved by the praise received and by witnessing the new lightness in our faces. Robyn passed around a bowl of cherries, accompanied by a poem that she wrote called Ode to Cherries. Here’s an excerpt:

Life is a bounty
   and it is up to each one of us
  to most effectively deal with the pits. . .

Some pits I like
an alluvial pit – studded with corundum
the blues and reds of sapphires and rubies
or tourmaline in watermelon pinks to greens

pitch of a tree aging thousands of years
to become amber with insects frozen in time
a pitch black night reminding me
how insignificant I am on this planet earth

Other pits are notable
for their lengthy stay in my space
old vows no longer suitable
spaces and places ready for bounty and light

So take the pits along
with the sweeet bounty of life
embrace them  release them
leaving love passion
and your radiant light.

May we be reminded to
show up for ourselves and lead the way . . .

Bless the Journey as we weave
our tapestry of Life

Thank you to Bet, Debbie, Barb, Robyn, Sandra, Eva, and Bob for your courage and willingness to open your hearts and share your light and love with me and all of us. It was a wonderful experience.

August 1, 2010 at 1:14 pm Comments (4)