Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Hurray for the arts, local and global

     — iPhone photos by Heather Conn

It’s almost the end of summer yet I’m still revelling in the creative spirit of Roberts Creek. Before the rains come and we head indoors in hibernation, I’d like to honour the artistic vision of my community.

I feel inspired to share some images from the first Roberts Creek Arts Crawl, held last spring. It was a joy to wander down driveways I’d unknowingly passed for years and discover what homegrown talent lay in my own neighbourhood.

I met many interesting souls and heard some local lore I’d never known (like the coins of a transplanted miner buried under a log cabin). To meet artists in their own milieu, see how they had transformed their studios and living spaces into workable art, taste homemade goodies, and hear local musical talent felt like a Canadian coastal version of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion. I cherished the opportunity to glimpse into people’s creative sanctuaries and find out what themes and ideas keep them afire.

Here’s to the heart of the Creek, in every sense of the word . . .

(I had hoped to get these images up much sooner, but hey, I’m a busy gal.)





August 28, 2012 at 11:22 am Comments (0)

Honor the invisible and ordinary, says Choy


Author Wayson Choy is a joy.


When I saw him last week as the opening guest speaker at the Festival of the Written Arts in Sechelt, BC, I expected him to read from his classic novel Jade Peony and his latest book, the memoir Not Yet.


Instead, he walked out from behind the onstage podium and told the sold-out crowd: “I almost died twice.” With wry humor, he explained that while unconscious and in surgery, near-dead from an asthma and heart attack, he remembered no dramatic out-of-body experiences or ghostly encounters — just hospital staff discussing mundane things like recipes and golf.


Yet these seemingly dull topics are part of the “human mosaic” of everyday life, Choy said, the ordinary world that lives intertwined with the realm of what he calls “the invisible.” Our daily lives, and the secrets and sense of community they reveal through our stories, are the true valuables we leave behind, not real estate, jewelry or investments, he told us.


For an hour straight, with wit, irreverence and no notes, 73-year-old Choy graciously flowed from thanks and gratitude (“I do care so much that you’re here”) to punchy power (“I don’t give a shit.”) He quoted Antoine St. Exupery’s line from The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” (I have that saying framed on my wall.)


The soft-spoken, grey-haired author shared the Zen proverb “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water,” and reinforced that he focuses on the here and now and does not believe in an afterlife.


“In story, I found meaning,” he says on his agent Denise Bukowski’s website regarding writing his memoir about his two brushes with death (he had another heart attack four years after his surgery): “I found myself somehow assured that there is more strength in living one’s life as everyday adventure, as an unfinished tale to be lived, one enlightened moment after another, than to live blindly chained to the idea that life simply ends.”


A delightful storyteller, Choy described to us his brief attempt to write pornography. When he showed the new writing to Bukowski, she told him: “Don’t go there.” He spoke of learning how to write under novelist mentor Carol Shields, who told him to write about “what we don’t know.” She suggested Chinatown; he initially thought the idea “boring,” yet ended up producing his acclaimed novel Jade Peony.


“Chinatown has always been a mythology of the mind,” he said, referring to today’s Chinese enclave, Richmond, as “bubbles of wealthy people.” He said with a laugh that “his” people (Chinese-Canadians) are reading about making money. He spoke of secrets within families and cultures and how humiliation and racism have deeply imprinted the history of the Chinese experience in Canada. “We can tell the truth,” he said, while affirming “No one escapes the truth.” He urged us all: “Tell your stories.”


Overall, it was a treat to hear a noteworthy Canadian voice reveal such humble wisdom, fuelled by awareness of the potential story in every moment. “We only have to meet each other and know each other,” he said. I found his perspectives welcome validation of my own outlook. Thanks for the inspiration, Wayne.


Wayson Choy was making his fifth appearance at the festival in celebration of its 30th anniversary. He was the festival board’s first choice as opening night speaker, said board president Wendy Hunt.

, , ,
August 20, 2012 at 5:09 pm Comments (0)

Bonnie Raitt was great in Vancouver


Forget her sheer talent, voluminous red hair, and soothingly smooth and craggy voice. Bonnie Raitt made her Friday night concert in Vancouver, BC a delight by her inclusive, humble presence. What other lead singer would introduce a roadie, then invite him to play guitar on one of her band’s songs?


Throughout her two-hour show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Raitt readily gave herself over to her bandmates to let each one shine. Keyboardist Mike Finnigan shared amazing lead vocals with throaty blues on two songs. Two of her musicians – James Hutchinson on bass and drummer Ricky Fataar – have played with her for 30 years, displaying obvious abilities to quickly match Raitt’s improvisational choices. Her four-piece group, including guitarist George Marinelli, were clearly having fun with Raitt as a good friend. “I’ve missed you guys,” she told them.


Raitt’s new tunes, from her latest CD Slipstream, included a great reggae version of Gerry Rafferty’s Right Down the Line (I like it better than the original) and Dylan’s heartbreak song Standing in the Doorway. The latter left Raitt choked up; she shared that when that stops happening, she’ll stop playing music. Tears were pouring down the face of the woman seated next to me.


Raitt received numerous standing ovations throughout the night. Her 1989 CD Nick of Time is one of my favorites and she played three songs from it: Thing Called Love; Have a Heart; and I Will Not Be Denied.


I loved that Raitt was so honest and direct with the nearly sold-out audience. Defying society’s age hangups, especially for women, she readily admitted that she was 62. She expressed gratitude for the audience’s respect, stating that she never once saw someone’s cell phone light appear in the darkness. She reapplied lipstick several times throughout the night, sharing that she was too cheap to have someone else do her makeup and was horrified when she saw what she had looked like in a previous video.


I’ve admired Raitt for decades, not just for her powerhouse female presence in a male-dominated business, but for her activism in so many areas, from environmental protection to formerly providing sanctuary for El Salvadoreans during their nation’s war. (I saw her in Seattle at an unadvertised show about 25 years ago to raise money for the Sanctuary movement, which helped El Salvadoreans leave their country safely.) During the Vancouver concert, she asked: “Have you heard that we’re having an auction, an auction for president?”


As an encore, Raitt invited local blues rocker Colin James to join her band onstage for a few songs, along with opening act John Lee Sanders. I found keyboardist Sanders and his band ho-hum, more suited for a small dance club than a large venue like the Queen E., but I did appreciate his soulful sax-playing.


I’m grateful that Raitt now has her own label Redwing Records, which gives her greater power and control over her work within the music industry. I don’t much care that Rolling Stone has made her #89 on its list of 100 greatest guitarists of all time. For me, she embodies a compelling feminine mix of grace, grit, and grassroots generosity. As Will Hermes said four months ago in Rolling Stone: “Bonnie Raitt is such a class act it’s easy to forget she’s kind of badass.”


, , ,
August 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm Comments (0)

How green are London’s 2012 Olympic Games?

In all of the 2012 Olympics media coverage so far, I have heard nothing on TV or in print about the environmental impact of the Games. The construction and operations of the London Games, combined with the associated travel of athletes from 200+ countries, are expected to generate more than two million tons of carbon dioxide, according to University of B.C. associate professor James Tansey.

He’s executive director of the ISIS Research Centre at the university’s Sauder School of Business. The centre focuses on using business tools to create a low-carbon economy. Tansey was involved with the organizing committee of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which were the first Games to be carbon neutral.


Tansey’s company Offsetters partnered with the 2012 Canadian Olympic team to offset its travel to London. The team is offsetting around 1,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is roughly the same volume as 300 Olympic-size swimming pools. The team’s related carbon credits are invested in four organizations: two landfill gas ventures in Canada, a bio-gas project in Thailand, and a wind farm in Turkey.


Some people think that carbon offsets are little more than scams, allowing people to continue to pollute, then appease their guilt by investing in dubious projects branded “green.” Like any businesses, the standards and ethics of carbon-offset companies vary dramatically.


You can find out more about carbon offsets from the downloadable guide Purchasing Carbon Offsets, prepared by the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute. A few questions to consider regarding carbon offsets include:

  •  Have your carbon offsets been certified to a recognized standard?
  • How do you ensure that the greenhouse gas reductions that your carbon offsets represent are quantified accurately?
  • Are 100 per cent of your offsets validated and verified by accredited third parties?


As the David Suzuki Foundation points out on its website: “[V]oluntary offset programs should not be seen as a substitute for comprehensive government regulations to reduce greenhouse gases.” The Foundation calls them a step in the right direction, and an opportunity to demonstrate leadership on climate change.


Find out more at Go Carbon Neutral on the David Suzuki Foundation website.



, , , , ,
August 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm Comments (0)