Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Healing Circle

On Sunday night we held a healing circle at Pacific Gardens to express our many feelings about the death of Murray Rogers, our dear friend.

We gathered together in the dining room to talk about the emotions that had surfaced since we heard the news - shock, sadness, guilt, anger, and frustration that we couldn't help him.

Carla, who had not known Murray, but saw how those of us who did were affected, kindly offered to provide refreshments, because, as she said, "I believe food nurtures more than the mere body" - and she was right.

Roz had decorated the room with soft-lit electric candles and arrangements of dried plants from our gardens.  There was a pensive photo of Murray and Susana's beautiful tribute to him displayed on a table.

Several in the community who, like Carla, had not personally known Murray, came to provide support and help us deal with our grief and sense of loss.  That meant a great deal.

We talked for almost two hours.  At times we wept as we recalled how Murray had struggled with his anxiety and depression.  At other times we laughed as we remembered Murray's offbeat sense of humour.

We remembered his incredible generosity, his willingness to tackle new projects, his creativity, his skills as a master electrician and a scuba diver, his passionate concern for the environment.

Murray was a unique shining star, a man like no other.  He could be bombastic and in-your-face, tender and loving, argumentative and then accepting.  We will never forget him.

We'll be holding a gathering for his family and his many friends on Saturday, Nov. 23rd from 2 to 5 pm at Pacific Gardens, where we will celebrate his life with music and food and share our stories.

Here is a picture of Murray as we like to remember him, taken at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Pacific Gardens a little more than four years ago.


Murray Rogers, centre, with Pacific Gardens co-founders, 2009

Saturday, November 9, 2013

We have lost one of our own

In the past, we have celebrated births in our Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community.  Now we grieve the loss of one of our own, Murray Rogers, who died suddenly earlier this week.  We mourn his death, but celebrate all that he meant to us.  
Susana Michaelis has written a moving tribute to Murray.  The creative logo he designed for our community is pictured above her words.

My Memories of Murray Rogers
I first met Murray in 1995 when I joined the Community Shared Agriculture Farm Project. A group of us idealistic folk created a society, got government funding, and ran a youth training program on an organic farm that we created. All of it was "out of the box", as none of us had experience running a farm, hiring staff and training large groups of teenagers! It was a challenge and great learning experience. These were the kinds of projects Murray jumped into without hesitation.
When David Weston started discussing the wild idea of creating a cohousing community in Nanaimo, it isn't surprising that Murray jumped right in. Another Murray-type adventure! Murray and I cold-called friends, and friends of friends, and asked for money to buy this amazing piece of land to create a new kind of intentional community. Amazingly, people opened their hearts and their wallets, and Pacific Gardens was conceived! The gestation period was long and arduous, but Pacific Gardens exists today because Murray Rogers believed in the dream when it seemed impossible. As co-founder, he fully invested his time, energy and money to see this project succeed.
Murray was always full of creative ideas. Every meeting he had some new innovative idea that he enthusiastically expounded upon! I must admit, he didn't always have an appreciative audience. However, when Murray showed us the logo he dreamed up for Pacific Gardens, and showed how the PG formed the image of Mount Benson, it was the fastest-adopted decision ever! We knew it was brilliant!!
Murray was larger than life. He was big in stature, big in heart, big in energy, and big in impact on others. He filled the room with his presence. You could always hear him coming, his constant jokes and puns, and his big belly-laugh at his own jokes!! He marched to his own drummer. His cat was called "Puppy" and his dog was called "Kitty". Murray never wanted to be conventional!
Murray embodied generosity and compassion. He housed homeless folk, joined and donated to countless non-profits and worthy projects, supported a family in Belize, founded REEF (Rogers Environmental Education Foundation) to preserve coral reefs in Belize, and could always be called upon to help in any situation. He visited his parents every single day in a senior facility.
Murray was a brilliant man who could make anything he set his mind to. He was the ultimate re-user of found materials. He could always see how something could be re-used or invented new.
An electrician, a lover of nature, a skilled scuba diver, a musician, an avid gardener, an activist, an artist, an inventor, a father, a friend. There was more to Murray than any of us know. He lived a very humble life, choosing to put his money and energy into helping others and protecting Mother Nature, which he valued so much.

I will miss having Murray, with his longs legs and suspenders holding up his pants, striding into our weekly potluck with his BBQ chicken in hand. I will miss his loud laugh and his jokes. I will miss his presence. He is probably trying to invent a way to make heaven more energy efficient! Bye for now, and be at peace, my good friend.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Fine Art of Composting

With so many dedicated gardeners here at Pacific Gardens, you would think the folks living here would know exactly what goes into the composting bin.

We have passionate discussions on the importance of layering brown material with green material, fool-proof methods of keeping down the fruit-fly population, and when to turn or not to turn, so we should be experts by now.

Well, maybe not.  Our indefatigable recycling, garbage and compost duo, Mia and Gloria, have made some interesting discoveries when checking out the compost bins for, shall we say, non-conforming items.

Oh, what they found! A plastic jockey figure.  A watch.  A plate. A fork. A spoon. A wine-bottle stopper.  A ping-pong ball.  A net-bag. Ribbon.  A ruler.  And a compostable bag - full of non-composted food!

This was in addition to the usual offenders -  bits of plastic, foil wrap, twist-ties, and different varieties of string, both plastic and non-plastic.

So they included this in the display of what not to compost at their most recent educational evening.

Creative composting from cohousers!

But as usual, they made it fun, with prizes, treats, popcorn and a movie, the only one our children had not seen yet, "The Gods Must Be Crazy", which demonstrates what can happen when you throw away a pop bottle!

There's obviously a fine art to composting, and recycling, but we're lucky to have Gloria and Mia, who teach it with creativity - and a certain amount of comedy.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Pacific Gardens Still Says No to Smart Meters

All of us at Pacific Gardens have now received the bullying letters from B.C. Hydro about smart meters saying in effect, pay up or else, and threatening to charge us exorbitant fees for the right to keep our current analog meters.

This has caused a great deal of angst and worry in our community. None of us can afford the fees, but we also don't want to have a bank of 25 smart meters humming away in our basement that could threaten the health of our children and people with heart conditions.

Those of us who are concerned about the fees have been worried that we would alienate our neighbours if we signed the forms giving our consent and mailed them in, but at the same time we did not want our power cut off if we couldn't pay.

So, as usual at Pacific Gardens, we had a meeting to discuss what we were all feeling and what we could or should do next. We were guided in our discussion by questions raised by our sister cohousing community, Windsong in Langley.

For us, as for them, our main concern was how we could come together as a community and create consensus on an issue that has so much potential for division, pitting those on limited incomes against those who are worried about health effects, privacy issues, and increased billings.

The meeting was excellent.  There was a good attendance from both renters and owners, and everyone had a chance to speak and be heard.  We made a decision to hold off sending in responses to B.C. Hydro and to meet again early next month to plan our next steps.

We'll use the extra time to gather more information, get advice from other groups, figure out possible options, see if the class action suit for a no-fee opt-out is successful, and hear what the B.C. Utilities Commission has to say about the proposed fees.

We're also going to investigate whether we can have wired meters connected to an outside transmitter.  This was an option suggested to us by B.C. Hydro before, but of course, it could cost us.  However, if it means we can have a smart meter-free building, it would be worth it.

If we can keep our status as a building without smart meters, Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community would be one of the few places in B.C. where people opposed to them could live - and there are thousands who do.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Pacific Gardens Pumpkineers!

We have a bunch of very creative kids (and adults) here at Pacific Gardens - give them some pumpkins and it's amazing what they'll come up with!

Yesterday Roz held a pumpkin-carving party for the weans (as they say in Scotland) and the old ones, as well as the not-so-old parents, with some spectacular results.

Here they are:

The great pumpkineers!

Scary pumpkins!

Funny pumpkins!

I have to admit my favourite was Anna's, which was a scary pumpkin spider, although Lindsay's terribly toothy pumpkinhead was pretty good too.

The best part of it for me was that everyone got one of Roz's yummy chocolate zucchini cupcakes, even if all they did was come into the dining room and take a look - like me.

We've put the pumpkins outside to keep them cool and fresh until Oct. 31st, when the little hobgoblins will be knocking on our doors for treats!

Here they are, lurking on Roz's balcony, lying in wait for the big night.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinners, One, Two, Three!

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday of the year.  I like it way better than Christmas, which I find annoying in the extreme because of its emphasis on consumerism.

Christmas is focused way too much on buying stuff, with a tidal wave of advertising flyers pouring into our building, designed to make us feel bad if we don't get the latest gadget or electronic doodad for our kith and kin.

Thanksgiving is focused on what it really important.The whole purpose of it is expressing gratitude for all the good things in your life, and as Canadians and cohousers, we have a lot to be thankful for.

So you can imagine my delight this month when I enjoyed not just one, or two, but three Thanksgiving dinners at Pacific Gardens, all of them scrumptious and eaten with good friends and good company.

The first was with my neighbour across the hall, Sharon, who cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for her son before she went on her holidays in early October so he wouldn't miss out.

She had so much turkey and mashed potatoes and veggies and gravy she needed help in eating it all, so she invited me, another neighbour, and her son's girlfriend - and there were still left-overs.

Then last night Pacific Gardens had its annual potluck Thanksgiving feast, with close to 40 people.  We had the usual fare, but with additions from our gardens, and an enormous pumpkin pie among the many desserts.

After the meal we had some wonderful entertainment, with Raul on piano and vocals, David Weston on violin, followed by David Li playing the piano and singing, and Clare, who revealed a hitherto unknown talent for the piano that delighted us all.

However, because some people were away on Sunday, we decided to do it all over again tonight, with about 25 people, and it was even better.  Kari made a pumpkin chocolate cheese cake that was absolutely irresistible.

Three Thanksgiving dinners in two weeks - now that's something to be grateful for!


Monday, October 7, 2013

Happy Kids, Happy Parents, Happy Community

Our Mia did something particularly wonderful for the community last week. She organized a meeting where the parents here could talk about their experience of living at Pacific Gardens.

So what's the big deal, you say - you had another community gabfest, and people got a chance to talk about the kids and their life here. Why was that so special?

It was special because it was the first time the parents were able to tell the rest of us how much it meant to them to be living in cohousing - and we were able to tell them how much it meant to us to have the kids here.

We found out that there were some misunderstandings and miscommunications that had caused some concern. No - we definitely did not want to be a retirement community with only seniors living here!

And no, the parents did not mind if we approached their kids when misbehaving, as long as we talked to them with respect, just as we would to any adult.

And they were thrilled that their children were developing multi-generational relationships, interacting with adults from age 23 to 83 - an opportunity rarely found elsewhere in society.

They talked of their hopes and fears for their kids, and their worries that they weren't as good at parenting as they should be.  Those of us who had been there assured them that perfection is not a job requirement for parents!

Most importantly, the adults without kids were able to tell them how much the children meant to us, how we treasured their presence, loved to hear their laughter, and learned from them.

It was moving, powerful, life-affirming, and authentic. Without the children Pacific Gardens wouldn't be as happy and connected.

Thank you, Mia!