You’ll never know the treasures that you’re Worth


Striding with ease through the tall and soulful trees brought a new taste of tenderness to the trials of timeless timber.

I’m sure I am not alone in the stirring that our stroll through the Whaletown commons woodlands brushed upon me, like pollen dusting down and nestling oh so comfortably amongst the fibers of my mindscape. Of all the things to take with me on that ferry, I treasured that moment of humble silence as I lay my chest against the mossy bark of that first old growth tree. Gazing up in bewilderment, like the days when my uncles would toss me around their childhood kitchen, I felt a visceral, childlike connection to this tree I seemed to have known my entire life. From that angle, I was convinced I could just start walking vertically up the trunk like it was horizontal, ducking and weaving through the sporadic branches to reach an end I had no sight of. It made me wonder where I was hoping to go; what lay at the end of this triumphant specimen, and why did I, of all people, deserve to tread that trail?

It’s easy to anthropomorphize all of these things we feel such deep connections to, and perhaps that is a human trait in place to urge us to treat all things with the same respect. If it isn’t there already, I see a widespread dissemination of the IDEALS associated with Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis to be the next evolutionary step where those who cannot foster such appreciation don’t deserve to reap the benefits.

I believe Joel Salatin says it best in Food INC. in claiming that “a culture that just views a pig as a pile protoplasmic, inanimate structure to be manipulated by whatever creative design the human can foist on that critter, will probably view individuals within it’s community and other cultures with that same disdain, disrespect, and controlling type mentality” (Kenner, 50:15). I think that as a human race, there must be an inherent desire to better ourselves by striving for this humble and respectful standard for the sake of sustainability, and especially for the reconnecting of humans to this universe that designed them by whatever means one chooses.

No, this gargantuan Thuja may never know the treasures that it’s worth, but as far as the area of land known formally as ‘Whaletown Commons’ is concerned, it has no value other than the shade, sap, space, and sounds that it conjures amongst the forestlands- much like my childish perception of those gargantuan tree trunks that appeared to be my uncles.


Works Cited:

Kenner, R.; Pearce, R.; Schlosser, E.; Robledo, M.; & Pohlad, W. (2009). Food INC. Magnolia Home Entertainment, Los Angeles, CA. [DVD video].


Swayletown on Second Glance


After a week of farm living on the luxurious Blue Jay Lake Farm, I was well acclimatized to the rhythm that Cortes Island had lulled me into. This was certainly a unique experience for me and  treasured it beyond words; it was amazing to meet so many intriguing people along the way and I crossed Quadra Island a different man 16 days later.

You can imagine my surprise when I rumbled down the 3 kilometer drive expecting a nice grassy spot for my tent, only to be shown to my own tiny-home with potable tap water, incredibly comfortable bed, and composting toilet overlooking the vacant pasture. It was surreal, and I will be forever grateful for such an enriching experience to shape my first encounter with Cortes living. I saw Swayletown- aptly named for its position at the bottom edge of this grassy, buttercup infested pasture and ironic connection to ‘Whaletown’- with youthful eyes and an attitude so open you could run cattle through it. If there was work to be done, I was into it, even if it involved back breaking shoveling, striking, weeding, and wheelbarrowing; it was sustenance living and I found a new excitement and appreciation for the work that typically bored me, all without a paycheque in sight- just lunch. I believe this to be one of the pillars of change that I experienced on this magical island.

Now I still don’t quite understand these changes, but it became visceral when our class convoyed down Blue Jay Lake Farm’s lengthy driveway more than a week later and I saw the Swayletown commune with fresh eyes and a student’s mentality. With Mark Lombard, my generous and previously unintroduced host, guiding us through and explaining the different approaches taken in building these homes, I saw more of a gradient effect between these characteristic homes that highlighted differences in expertise, space, cost, preparation, materials, and personality.

The main point of discussion was Max’s efforts towards recycling and salvaging materials versus Dan’s choice to work externally instead and buy more materials; Dan also benefitted from being the last to build his home, and therefore draw from Max and Mark’s experience, who also helped in the planning and construction stages. In the end, each of the three homes were rich in character and perfect examples of 3 differing tiny-home designs and the all too important factors that go into building them.

I took two important pieces away from that: I preferred Dan’s approach for the sake of long-lasting, high quality materials and accounting for important design details only discovered through experience. All of these were made possible by the sense of community that Swayletown exhibited, allowing the refining of ideas and results by the combination of the three men’s ideals- I could only hope for such a situation in my own life.

More Vine than Vehicle?


As hard as it is to point out something in particular that I appreciated about Oliver Kellhammer’s thoughts and ideas, the one I was drawn to was his intrigue around nature vs. technology. Since my early days wielding a DSLR, I have sought out the ‘rust-buckets’ that are too often littering our natural landscapes, retreating into history as wilderness overcomes it.

It becomes an interesting query determining who represents nature and who represents technology. In many ways, it is clear, the truck is obviously carbon-based innovation and we are the thriving nature that strikes back, finding any and all methods to arrive at our goal of sustainable engineering and earth-centric living. But take a moment to turn this idea on its head and think of ourselves as the truck, stubborn and structured, being worn down by the weathering winds and weeds, but never wavering from the spot we sit. At this point, nature (industry) may take its course, as it always does, and smother our hairbrained ideas as the more profitable option of succession supersedes; the typical story of majority vs. minority, or the free-minded against those caged by fear of failure.

Yes, there will be times when we feel overcome by the weeds, more vine than vehicle, but our choice to stay in that mindset will cement our fates. Instead I ask you, the plump fruits of our anthropocene, to consider that the truck becomes intertwined with its surroundings and dawns a microclimate of its own. The truck may disappear from sight, but still provides the structure that allows the stems and stamens of technology to shoot up and reach the canopy before those who decided they didn’t need the structure of said ‘rust-bucket’.

In the worst of times, all it takes is a change in perspective to reveal a solution so intricately embedded within the problem that it is assumed to be senseless, baloney, or balderdash (if you will). But it is the result that matters, and the majority of innovators were quelled by the dominant voices of their time, so please- my fellow Kool-Aid drinkers, laugh in the face of those voices and reveal your own seed that bursts through the concrete cracks and flowers above the financially-fuelled, fume-filled constraints of our anthropocene.

Thank you in advance.

Lakeside Living at Occupy-Linnaea

[o] Matt Kemp
[o] Matt Kemp
With the lavish, spectacular farmhouse as a tantalizing option, the 6 souls of ‘Occupy-Linnaea’ braved racoon infested and chilled-dewy nights to build up our own community amongst the playground equipment and long grasses.

Riding the high of a recent arrival and first night with the gang, I settled into my tent-citadel beside my Cortes-native Siberian Tiger (stuffie) with a warm, grateful soul for the space I now sat. That changed quite quickly as the instant my eyes closed, a loud snarl and run condensed on the other side of my temporary home’s thin fabric; as a pack of wolves moved into my thirsty imagination, they passed the two real and timid raccoon’s that had stirred my thoughts moments before. This was the first of many encounters with my vivid, suspicious mind which swiftly grew accustomed to the trash panda’s pitter-patter, but it also challenged me to invite my rationale to the dreamy dinner party.

The next morning, I awoke at 730 to join Mike’s ‘sit-spot’, but instead decided to make my own sit-spot tradition in the center of Gunflint Lake. I could not explain the extent of bewilderment and seclusion that lake offered me, but I can tell you it will grace my dreams until I find one to replace it. The remaining sensations of slumber were swept away by an echoing splash; the water, warm from the sun-kissed cliffs, rushed me through my morning blues and saved me from a midday snooze.

Glancing over to the swim rocks, my eyes found some friendly figures who too were experiencing this tranquility, and apparently even picked up on my silent singing as it bounced off the cliff walls about a kilometer away. With nothing but bee’s buzzing and birds swooping, grass growing and frogs flirting, the mornings became a staple of my mental diet as each was more enchanting than the last. This small example may help to capture the vivid, wild silence that won over each and every one of our hearts and minds. It may also make it easier to see how sane my attraction was to Gunflint’s muddy shores in the wee hours before breakfast, especially when it was twenty paces from tent to tarn.

[o] Matt Kemp
[o] Matt Kemp
Skipping ahead to my last night, sharing the wooden slide-shack with Nash after packing up our contribution to tent-city, I was challenged yet again to turn my stirring mind from the whispers of panda pitter-patter, and this time without the fabric divider. While it was a struggle to nod off, it was rejuvenating to slumber beneath the fading moon and stumble along that plank to paddle out one last time from the shores of the temporary home I had found on Cortes Island. Now homeward bound, I was, on a road that looked and felt far different than it had two weeks prior; a road enriched by the feelings and friends of a far-from-formal field course.