Community Articles
Go to Site Index See "Community Articles" main page
General News · 7th December 2009
Dianne Bersea
Recently I surfaced from an intense five month, seven day a week project. The first thing I did returned me to the fold of Cortes community… I attended the FOCI Annual General Meeting. Every time I’ve attended the FOCI AGM I come away inspired, uplifted and reassured that the future of this island is in good hands. Operating as an umbrella group for a dozen or more enterprises, FOCI provides “shelter from the storm”, a tidy haven of enthusiastic support, funding expertise, brain power and probably even simply hand-holding when needed.

I sat in the meeting, (a well-run, well-organized meeting by the way) and took in an astounding array of fascinating reports on marine base-line data collection and Cortes affordable housing proposals from CHI (Cortes Housing Initiatives), among others. Each report brought word of real achievements such as digitizing fifteen years of marine data, now available to ocean researchers anywhere there’s web access - to the real world service of Delores Broten’s multi-year publication of the Watershed Sentinel, BC’s most important environmental magazine distributed across Canada. And how wonderful that Tamara and Adam received the Joanne Green award for their activist role in island food security. As Tamara commented: “It feels good to know that our work is being noticed.”

The FOCI meeting led to a remarkable evening with Rob and Laurie Wood, thirty-four year Maurelle Island residents, mountaineers and green builders. I felt honoured to be a part of a slide show audience for Rob Wood’s presentation on Bute Inlet, enlightened with graphically illustrated references to Plutonic Power tower and line placement. Once upon a time I aspired to be a mountaineer and my heart flew to the alpine vistas and craggy rock faces of Bute’s mountain fortress. This is the land of Waddington and mountain ramparts and daring loggers, of indomitable Phyliss and Don Munday, the first to ascend Mount Waddington after an impressive thirteen day trek from the head of Bute Inlet. Much was made of the wisdom of the folks who know the Bute, loggers primarily, who respect the winds and the slides and sheer rock walls that offer no safe harbour. Powerful stuff!

Sunday, Jodi and I stopped in at the Cortes Housing Initiative (CHI) presentation…another occasion to affirm the power of community. Some very sharp, smart, wise folks have taken on the challenge of identifying the issues and finding ways to create alternative island housing. A statistically significant housing survey response of 30% clearly identified the pre-eminence of housing concerns for Cortes Islanders.

I identify with housing issues. I’ve spent 15 years on Cortes and Jodi and I have lived in tents, small cabins, a camper (in two locations), house-sits, caretaking situations, seasonal rentals (also known as “shuffle houses”) and had the curious experience of being offered a cabin that was recently vacated by a tenant who moved to a tent. We’ve also barged in a portable classroom for a studio and bought a Palm Springs (no insulation) park model mobile home to park on leased land. Through all of those transitions we ran our art business, often moving stock and exhibit set-ups as well as ourselves in the busiest season of the year. The prospect of doing this with children boggles the mind.

Thankfully we now own a home. Of course owning a house has it’s demands, but the amount of energy that we used to put into keeping a roof over our heads, whew, it’s overwhelming! As a homeowner that energy can finally be focused elsewhere.

As a homeowner I’m also thankful that the island is blessed with reliable service people and a number of vigorous, creative young people. Hiring people leaves me more time to be an artist, but also relieves me of chores that my age makes unwise or impossible. We’ve had Cortes Islanders clean gutters, dig trenches, install additional electrical and water lines, solve plumbing problems, install a new water heater, build stairs and a roofed entry way, maintain our lawn, provide garden advice, deliver lumber and fencing, build art crates, affix a external air intake on the pellet stove, and paint our gallery.

All these people need a place to live before they can even think about providing services I need. I’m all for any project that can support, build, finance, energize more homes - specifically more homes for those who don’t have the resources. The term ‘enlightened self-interest’ came up in the Housing Initiatives meeting. If I support the opportunity for more people to be properly housed, my self-interest is well served. Adequate housing pays off for me. I can feel confident that there will be people around to help with the fire wood, design a brochure, work in the grocery store, provide banking services, staff ambulance calls…and, buy my greeting cards, Jodi’s rattles and take our art classes.

Thanks Sandra, Christa, Vicki, David, and Oliver and all the other presenters. CHI indeed!! I often find meetings hard to sit through, but the three aforementioned kept me seated and attentive. I’m looking forward to the next installment.