Honorary Keepers of the Lighthouse!

Being married to an artist definitely has its perks. For me, one of the greatest parts of being the Less Creative Other Half to a Creative Genius is getting to accompany my beau on some stellar “art research” excursions. We’ve been invited to experience the inner workings of a chocolate factory before, got to hang out at a micro-brewery when Marty’s custom-designed beer bottles were being filled, and most recently, we were whisked away to a nearby island to be Unofficial Keepers of the Race Rocks Lighthouse for 24 hours! It’s a tough job, but somebody has to be a tag-along bride! 😉

Race Rocks: Our new home away from home!

Race Rocks Lighthouse is one of the two oldest lighthouses on Canada’s west coast, and it can only be accessed by boat. (Fisgard is the other oldest lighthouse, and both have been in operation since 1860.) Marty and I had been by Race Rocks Lighthouse before (en route to see the Super Pod of orca whales, natch!), but we never imagined we would ever get to set foot on the sacred island, let alone spend a night at the Lighthouse Keeper’s house! (As Honorary Lighthouse Keepers, even!!) So what if the beacon itself has been automated for decades? Allow me to take a single night’s worth of credit for keeping the passing ships safe… 😉

Don't worry, ships passing in the night-- you're in great (albeit inexperienced) hands!

How on earth did this happen? How did the chance to hang out at Race Rocks Lighthouse fall into our laps?

I’m glad you asked! Last autumn, Marty was asked to donate an item to a charity’s fundraising auction here in Victoria. He generously donated a custom painting of the winner’s choice, and we were thrilled to bits when the auction winner requested a piece of the Race Rocks Lighthouse! Even better was the fact that the winner had actual, physical ties to Race Rocks and could arrange for us to spend an evening there, for “research purposes” obviously. Hanging out at the Race Rocks Lighthouse is not an opportunity that comes along very often or to very many people at all, so you can bet that I dubbed myself Marty’s “Art Manager” ASAP and insisted that I accompany him to the remote island when the invitation was extended. 🙂

I'm the manager. I go everywhere Marty goes.

Getting ready for our journey, I fretted about what to pack and how to prepare. What, exactly, does one wear to be a Lighthouse Keeper? How much food does one pack, especially if there’s a chance of being stranded on the island? Should I bring my own toilet paper? (Was there even a primitive toilet there?) Would I need a book to read? Would I get any sleep at all? (Race Rocks is home to a substantial bunch of migrating sea lions during many seasons of the year and is a notoriously loud and stinky place while they are there. Thankfully, the sea lions weren’t basking on the surrounding rocks during our visit, so we didn’t need to use our ear plugs or hold our noses for 24 repulsive hours!)

We were told by the auction winner to “bring a sleeping bag and food” with us– in addition to our signed waivers, of course– but I had no idea what to expect from the accommodations. Would we be roughing it on a rustic wooden pallet on the floor? Would we be crammed into a storage closet-sized ‘room’? Would there be heat? Could we cook? Call me naive, but I’d never been an Honorary Lighthouse Keeper before and had no idea what awaited me. (For the record: I resisted the urge to prepare all of the remaining food items we had in our fridge and pantry for a 24-hour stay, and instead packed enough food to last us 2 days, just in case. The weather forecast looked promising for a timely exit from the island, so my OCD kitchen tendencies were kept in check.)

On Wednesday afternoon, we met the official Lighthouse Keeper at the docks of Pearson College with our overstuffed (and impressively heavy) expedition backpacks on hand. We were wearing our most rugged hiking clothes, vintage PFD jackets (on loan from the college), and we had warm and dry clothing reserves waiting in our sacks, just in case our very small and otherwise exposed transportation boat left us soaked and freezing before we even pulled up to the jetty at Race Rocks. Luckily, the sail there was dry and mostly warm, if bumpy and a little nerve-wracking. (Did I mention I don’t know how to swim? Heh.) First hurdle: cleared!

On our way!

Our first surprise was encountered right at the jetty, where we were supposed to dock and make our way onto the island. Blocking our only pathway to the island was a moulting (read: cranky!) female elephant seal, who snorted, hissed, and generally threatened to bite us when we made even the slightest move towards her.

Race Rocks is a protected ecological reserve site, so one of the first and most important rules for guests is to not disturb the animals, at any cost to themselves. (In realistic terms, this means that regular visitors to the island have to stand back and witness the normal life cycles of resident animals, including mating, birth, death, abandonment, starvation, disease, stand-offs, etc.) This female seal showed no intention of moving off the jetty, and there was obviously no way for us to move her ourselves, so we ended up having to creep around her while grasping to the outside of the protective handrails on the jetty. Welcome to Race Rocks!

I was terrified as I scaled the very outer edge of the jetty, knowing that a sharp drop into still-tumultuous waters awaited me if that female seal lunged in my direction. (The group consensus, made before we exited the boat, was that it would be better to let go of the rail and fall into the water rather than risk being bitten by a moulting seal– if it came to that, which hopefully it wouldn’t. For the record: this is much easier said and done by people who know how to swim. Luckily, I scrambled past the seal without being bitten or plunging myself into the icy waters. Welcome to Race Rocks, indeed!)

Once we were safely past the Unofficial Race Rocks Guardian, we met our next animal friend around the corner– a gigantic male elephant seal named Misery who had taken up residence mere feet from the door of the Lighthouse Keeper’s house.

Meet Misery. (We are smiling in this pic but we are secretly afraid of waking the beast).

This particular Misery does not enjoy company (as evidenced by his continued maiming and killing of rival males and young seal pups), so we tiptoed gingerly past him while he slept, sending furtive prayers to the universe to keep him snoring until we were safely inside. Thankfully, the universe obliged. (I don’t know if I could have handled two seal antagonists within mere minutes of arriving at Race Rocks, especially one of the 1000+ lb, Alpha Male variety.)

But the lighthouse! Oh, the lighthouse!

Race Rocks Lighthouse by day

I was blown away by the actual light tower! A giddy grin affixed itself to my face and refused to budge or wane for the next 24+ hours. I was overcome by all sorts of romantic notions about lighthouses and spent most of the time on the island either admiring the light tower, photographing the light tower, thinking about the light tower, climbing the 98+ stairs to the top of the light tower, or enjoying the spectacular views from atop the light tower. Marty and I took occasional breaks inside to make tea or grab snacks, but the majority of our time was spent outside appreciating the magnificence of Race Rocks Lighthouse!

Race Rocks Lighthouse by night

The weather was perfect for the outing– not raining, not too windy, and we visited there the night before the Full Moon, too. We stayed up as late as possible, watching the sunset first and then witnessing the moonlight playing on the light tower several hours after our camera decided it could no longer capture the magnificence of the setting digitally. (The brightness of the full moon enabled us to keep a sharp watch on Misery, too. God knows we wouldn’t want to accidentally trip over him while we were skipping around like fools on the island! Antagonizing a male elephant seal in the dark would have been a definite– and probably fatal– Race Rocks FAIL.)

What did I tell you, fools? I OWN THIS ISLAND!

After what felt like a very short sleep, we crawled out of bed in time to catch the sunrise. (Would we have missed our only sunrise at Race Rocks Lighthouse? Never!!)


(In total, we snapped over 1150 photos in less than 24 hours on the island! Our first sweep helped us whittle this down to 500. It was nearly impossible to “just” pick 20 or so for this post.)

If this is what it’s like to be a “starving artist”, sign me up please! 😉

Final notes and details: The Lighthouse Keeper’s residence at Race Rocks is actually pretty classy and modern. (The Lighthouse Keeper offered us freshly baked cookies right out of the oven, which came in stark contrast to my idea of the house as a tiny, uber-drafty campsite.) There is no flushing toilet on site, but there is a primitive, indoor-outhouse-type toilet that more than suffices, especially when I was bracing myself for a day of peeing on rocks. There’s electricity, heat, a fully-equipped kitchen, and even wireless internet access there! (I decided not to bring our laptop with us, though. Contrary to popular belief, I can last for a day without checking my e-mail.)

Fortunately, the moulting female seal left the jetty during the night, so we didn’t have to deal with her menacing presence on the way back to the boat. Our return trip was delayed by a few hours due to wind and sketchy water conditions, but we had more than enough food to tie us over and the delay just meant more opportunities to take excessive amounts of photos! 🙂

What do you think, dear readers?

Was that an adventure or what?

Was the story worth the wait?

PS: A big thank you to everyone who visited Lake Superior Spirit on Thursday when I had the honour of guest posting in Kathy’s absence! Apologies for being a shoddy guest and not telling you I was even there until after the fact. What can I say? I was lighthouse keeping! (Please feel free to check out Kathy’s blog when you get the chance. She is one of my favourite stops each morning, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to guest post there.)

The World’s Most Interesting Man

Yacht races: what could possibly be more glamorous, luxurious, and filthy rich-sounding?

If you answered “nothing”, you would be correct! After all, Nothing sounds more rich and high-rolling than a yacht race.

The proof is in the picture!

Whenever the Memorial Day weekend hits the United States, we– the citizens of Victoria BC– are hit with a yacht race: the Swiftsure International Yacht Race, to be more specific. At the end of May each year, hundreds of luxury yachts cruise into the Inner Harbour and prepare to race up to 140 nautical miles in the Juan de Fuca Strait. Visitors pour into our humble city in the hopes of snapping some impressive photos of the yachts in action, and the locals are whipped into a frenzy as well, either because they love a good yacht race, too, or because they can’t freaking find a solitary parking space downtown, for the love of god!!!

Anyway. My dear husband– artist, entrepreneur, and general Man of Mystery– created a new, yacht-themed painting just in time for this year’s Swiftsure Race. It featured the race’s most prominent, recognizable, and well-decorated catamaran: the Dragonfly. We had it on display at our booth this weekend, and guess who scored an invitation to be an honorary crew member on a yacht because of it?

Yep: Marty!

Marty was invited to grace the Legend 45 with his handsome, interesting, and hopefully-not-seasick-prone self for the shorter of the Swiftsure races– not the full 140 nautical mile race (obviously), because that would involve suspending his better judgment for 24+ hours. The Legend 45 needed an extra crew member for the inland race, and what better crew member to recruit than a man who had never been sailing in his entire life before?

At least he can *look* the part!

“Do you have any boating experience?”, the skipper asked my dear husband.

“Nope” came Marty’s honest answer.

“Well, do you know how to handle ropes or tie any nautical knots?”

Again, “Nope” was the answer, offered with utmost sincerity.

“No matter– we’ll see you at the docks tomorrow morning at 8:30 am!”

I was pretty excited about Marty’s upcoming sojourn on the sea. How glamorous! How exotic! How luxurious! I pictured my suave partner donning a gold suit and ultramarine dress shirt for the race, his (rather short) hair whipping in the wind to the delight of his fellow 80s band crew members. There would possibly be suggestive hip-juttings and sultry poses on board as the yacht sliced through choppy waves at blistering speeds, but these questionable antics would all be in the name of High Fashion, Glamour, and Princess Diana’s Pop Music. (Hey– the only mental image I have of yacht races comes courtesy of the iconic Duran Duran video, Rio– what can I say?):

My dear husband: stand-in for the fabulous Simon Le Bon?

I could have been the Exotic Other on board, but I declined the invitation to be the Token Female amidst a bunch of crude, middle-aged sailor men. 🙂

Marty was a lot more nervous about the Swiftsure Race, however. His mental images of boats at sea were drawn more from disaster movies like A Perfect Storm and perhaps also Jaws, so he worried about getting tossed overboard into dark and churning waters or having his hands get mangled by ropes as he furiously attempted to secure something-nautical-or-other on deck:

"Watch the hands!! I need these to paint!"

Both of us agreed on one thing, though: the Swiftsure Race would be fast and the winds would be furious— our opinions only differed on the degrees to which we assumed (or even hoped?) that expensive gold suits and ultramarine-saturated dress shirts would be involved. 😉

Imagine Marty’s utter deflation, then, when this year’s race turned into a dreaded “Driftsure”– a weekend of little to no winds. The starting gun fired, and instead of hurtling forward in a dazzling display of coloured sails and skilled seamanship, the Legend 45 drifted backwards. Verrrrrry slooooooooowly. The entire inland (short) race was expected to take between 4 and 5 hours to complete, but the Legend 45 required a full 4 hours to make it back to the starting buoy— so much was it struggling against tides, currents, and a decided lack of breeze!

(Clearly, the whole point of the race is to sail, not to use any motors to power the yachts forward. The sails were up, but the wind was definitely down.)

I was at the Harbour this whole time, daydreaming about Marty’s unexpected promotion into the upper echelons of class and wealth. Marty! Sailing! Yacht race! Richness!! (I chose not to dwell on the skippers’ professed love of beer swilling in these fantasies and mentally substituted any real-life crassness or crudeness with Simon Le Bon hair and velvet 80s vocals, respectively. Her name is Rio…)  I was quite surprised– nay, shocked– to get a phone call from my dearest a full hour after he was expected to return to the Harbour, confirming that the real racing was just getting underway. Driftsure, indeed! He ended up docking at 8 pm, which meant a full 10 hours were spent at sea.

Cheap green anoraks are the new expensive gold suits, don't you know..

Luckily, the experience was not entirely for naught– Marty captured some great photos of the race and the colourful sails that he would never have been able to get from our station at the Harbour (when all the sails are down). He also got to cross “Race a Yacht” and “Re-Enact a Classic 80s Music Video” off of his Bucket List. And as for me? I had that stupid What do you do with a drunken sailor? song stuck in my head all day, and it miraculously ceased when my dizzy but victorious sailor set his sea-legs back on dry land. Thank goodness! 🙂

Try A Little Tenderness

Hello, world– and welcome to my week-and-a-half-ish check in! 🙂 Yes, it has been nearly 10 days since I’ve posted (and an equal amount of time since I’ve found the time to comment on other people’s blogs- whoops!), but instead of pummeling my fragile self over this, I’ve decided to adopt a more novel approach: I’m just going to be okay with it.

‘Why so gentle and understanding of the circumstances so suddenly’, you might ask?

Last week, I happened to attend a speech on Marty’s behalf. He wasn’t able to attend the talk himself because he had a cycling race that night. (This was a tad ironic, because the talk was all about thriving in competitive athletics on a vegan diet.) Anyway. Being the considerate person and loving wife that I am, I signed up for the talk for Marty’s sake and rode my bike there, notebook and pen in hand. I didn’t expect that this talk would have any personal relevance for me, given that I am not at all a competitive athlete and that I am practically a vegan anyway (I haven’t even eaten eggs in a few weeks because the time needed to prepare them– 10 solid minutes– has escaped me!) So I was blown away when the talk started out something like this:

“Are you here to learn about the foods that can help you succeed as a vegan athlete? (yes) Are you here to lose weight? (why, yes!) Are you here to learn the secrets of raw veganism? (sure, why not?) Then you might as well leave right now and get your money back, because you already know the answers to these questions.(um, pardon me?)

To my pleasant shock and surprise, instead of being a (probably boring) speech about vitamin B12, plant enzymes, probiotics, and protein, this gentleman spoke for over 2 hours about the psychology of eating and emotional eating. I was enraptured. Totally consumed by every word. Convinced that this person had been sent to Victoria by God himself to give this talk specifically to me. It was amazing. I actually felt a little choked up listening to it! And it took every bit of will power and focus I had not to blabber on like a Creepy Super Fan when the time came to thank the speaker in person afterward.

OMG! You are my super hero! I loved every single word you spoke tonight! Can I have your autograph???

This talk was all about the things we do as people that inadvertently/subconsciously sabotage our efforts to “get healthy” or “go vegan” or “[insert grand ambition here]”. He talked about how we declare to ourselves that we will “Go Vegan!” or “Go Raw!” or “Lose 25 Pounds!” or “Run A Marathon!“, but we rarely start out from the real starting line on our journeys– i.e. from a place of accepting ourselves as we are already. When we stand tall and boldly declare that we will Fit Into A Size Six!!, we are secretly saying to ourselves is that we are not okay at any other size, which means that we are probably not okay with ourselves as we are, right now. The way the speaker put it was that we are trying to start at the finish line of our race. The marathon of life (or weight loss, or veganism, or whatever) is starting miles and miles away from us, but there we are at the finish line, looking into the pretend mirror and saying stupid affirmations to ourselves like “I am a winner! I succeed at running! I can run a marathon and be a beautiful, fit person!”… all the while not actually running or actually doing anything to move forward.


Suffice it to say, after 2+ hours of listening to this pure genius talk about all of the issues that were eating at my very soul, I left feeling full of thankfulness and gratitude. I don’t want to beat myself up or hate myself over trivial things and circumstances that are beyond my control. I want to be gentle and accepting of myself and to try a little tenderness! Even two weeks ago, my strategy for Life in General went something like this: Eat perfectly, work perfectly, blog perfectly. exercise perfectly, sleep perfectly, and look fabulous doing it. No mistakes or deviations from perfection allowed!! Now, it’s a little more like this: Eat the best that I can, even if it means ordering take out food or buying treats; accept that we work a lot during the summers and be thankful for our pretty awesome source of income; blog and comment on other blogs when I can, even if it means I won’t crack the 10-post mark this month; exercise when I can; sleep when I can; and look fairly decent doing it! 😉

The new strategy seems to be working alright so far, but I’ll admit that sometimes it feels like I am still liking myself out of pity and sympathy instead of actually liking myself “just because”. (To use the earlier analogy, occasionally I find myself standing at the finish line of Liking Myself instead of working through the starting issues of not always liking myself 100%. I’m working on it!) Mostly, I am just thankful to have been directed to that talk last week. I really needed to hear it. (Should we all hold hands now and sing Kumbaya?)

And how are you doing lately?

Bring me up to speed in the comments section below! (Maybe I’m more likely to succeed at reading short paragraphs about your recent goings-on instead of 5 long blog posts every week? There’s only one way to find out!)

PS: The talk was given by Tim VanOrden of Running Raw fame. Without sounding like I’m the president of his Teenage Fan Club, I thought his talk was awesome. 🙂

The Dirty Dozen: My Initiation Into a Life of Crime

Remember the movie “Eastern Promises“? In it, Viggo Mortensen’s character, Nikolai, undergoes a series of grueling tests (including time spent in prison, crude cadaver alterations and disposals, and fighting off murderous, knife-wielding attackers whilst naked in a steam room) to prove his loyalty to the Vory v Zakone mob and earn his official Member Star Tattoos. As an outsider, after all, you can’t just “join” this underground dynasty– you have to fight and prove and earn your way into a lifetime membership.

And so it goes with my local Black Market.

You can’t just move into a new neighbourhood in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia– however sketchy and ghetto-like it may seem– and expect that your new address and postal code will automatically make you privy to the hottest, most secretive information on the block. No way, man– you have to earn that privilege. There’s a whole process to go through, and the Under Lords have certain protocols to follow. Come on. Just because it’s the Neighbourhood Hippie Black Market doesn’t mean there are no rules. Geez!

Well. We have lived in the ‘hood for a year now, and I am proud to report that I’ve officially earned my Ghetto Super Stars! I have put in my hardcore time and aced the dangerous tasks that were put before me:

1. I suffered through a particularly severe bout of tendonitis, which I incurred while scrubbing the residual stains out of our rental refrigerator, bathtub, and cupboards.

2. I deftly dodged the shards of broken glass and leftover needles that were strewn all over our sidewalks and in the park across the road– and I emerged victorious, with nary a cut, scrape, or Hepatitis/HIV+ test to boot!

3. I tolerated many sleepless nights with circles of hippies camped out on our front lawn, and I only called in law enforcement officials on one of these occasions.

4. I suffered through the indignity of– and subsequent confusion over– having our compost bin stolen. Filthy kitchen scraps. Stolen! Three separate times. (Why??)

5. I even remained stoic and unflinching when I learned that one of Victoria’s only murders in the past year had been committed in the building right next door to our suite… if by “stoic” I mean “I freaked the eff out“, and by “unflinching” I mean that “I begged Marty to beam me out of this dodgy apartment– STAT!!” (In any case– I passed this particular Black Market Worthiness test by default, because I was too lazy to pack up shop for a third time in one month).

Anyway. As a final test in the “Eastern Promises” movie, Viggo (we’re on a first name basis now) is put before a panel of Russian mobsters, who sit him almost-naked on a chair and “read” all of his tattoos to determine his worthiness of being branded with the gang’s Signature Star Tattoos.

My final test was similar to this, insomuch as I was sitting in a chair (although clothed) in the company of other people when it happened. However, where Viggo’s tattoos ultimately told the mobsters his story of loyalty, dedication, self-sacrifice, and requisite toughness, I happened to overhear some secret information by accident.

And that, my friends, is how I came to know about the Underground Egg Market.

You all know how much I love eggs, right? Of course you do— my almost-vegan self adores them! So when I heard (accidentally) that I could obtain free-range, basically organic eggs from a place that was only a hop, skip, and a jump away from my ghetto apartment, I capitalized on the knowledge and demanded that the Egg Baron procure me a dozen of those jewels, pronto! The Drug Egg Lords were none-too-impressed that their secret had slipped out haphazardly, but seeing as I had proven my neighbourhood worthiness on the other tasks they had set before me, they had no choice but to hook me up with a stash.

So rustic-looking-- so pure and unadulterated!

Victory at last!

Of course, it is legal to keep chickens in Victoria. What is not legal, though, is selling off your chickens’ eggs to the general public, unless you obtain the expensive licenses and necessary farm documents to do so. *The chickens and chicken by-products are meant to be for personal use only.* (Just so we are clear.) This particular Egg Baron works on a generous giveaway plan, at least for those of us who are In The Know, which obviously I am now. This is how the system works:

1. He gives me a dozen eggs for free– out of the kindness of his own, Black Market heart.

2. In my gratitude, I can choose– perhaps, hypothetically– to give him an offering of approximately 3 dollars. To clarify: this is not 3 dollars in return. Likewise, it is not a fixed, 3 dollar cost for a dozen organic and free-range eggs. I would only (perhaps, hypothetically) give this Baron 3 dollars out of the kindness of my own, left-leaning heart. And maybe I was so overjoyed to see these still-dirty eggs in the carton that my hand automatically reached for 3 dollars. Just because.

Honest-to-god DIRT still on the shells! THESE PUPPIES ARE FRESH!

Here is the dramatic re-enactment of my secret meeting with the Egg Baron:

Me: How can I ever repay you?

Baron: Don’t worry about it– they’re a gift.

Me: Can I give you 3 dollars out of the kindness of my granola-loving heart?

Under Lord of the Black Market: Hmmm… okay. But just this once.


I made a delicious (curried!) omelet this morning to seal the deal. So that’s it, folks– I’ve officially crossed over to the Other Side and am now a mule for the Lesser-Known Underground Egg Market. Don’t think you can find out my source, either– as if I’d ever tell.