Archive for August, 2009

The Last Leper on Bentinck Island
August 28, 2009

Years ago, I was on a BC Ferry with my mother – coming back from Vancouver Island.  We were out on the deck looking out at the islands in Active Pass when she said:

“Where’s that island of lepers your father used to visit?”

I never heard of this before.  I asked my father the next time I saw him and he said that yes, he had gone once to an island with lepers.  Bentinck Island.  There was only one man left there.   My father had a dental practice in Victoria but sometimes travelled to remoter areas to do dentistry.    Someone from the Victoria public health department had called him up and said they were looking for someone to go to the island as a leper had a painful abscess in his tooth.  My father agreed to go and, I guess, fixed the man’s tooth. I asked him what the condition the leper was in and he did tell me but I have forgotten.  I know he would have found the man’s solitary life very depressing. 

 After my father died, I mentioned this excusion to my aunt.   She confirmed that it happened and thought it very brave of my father.  “I’m sure he didn’t tell our mother.”  she said.

A local filmmaker made a documentary about the leper colony once and R. ran into the editor of the film – whom  he had worked with before.  When R. heard about the film, he said,  “My friend Sally’s father went to that island and did dental work for one of the lepers.”    The editor scoffed and said no one had gone to the island – it was quarantined.   Too bad my dad had passed away, as he would have loved to be interviewed for a film.

There must be a record in the Victoria Public Health department of how the people with leprosy were monitored.   I don’t think they were just abandoned there.


Egg Studies
August 26, 2009



E.’s Cycle of Life
August 21, 2009

My elderly acquaintance E. recently died in hospital – a few months short of her 92nd birthday.  She managed her old age well and was independent almost up to the end, when she had a fall and broke her hip bone.   Tests revealed she also had a brain tumor.   E. passed away after a few weeks in hospital.

E. was alert and upbeat when I visited her in hospital.  During a chat, we discovered she had lived in her childhood on the same block as my great-aunt Pearl and her husband in the 1920’s.   Just off Commercial Drive on Grant Street.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember Pearl’s married name so was unable to jog E.’s memory.   Still, she must have often seen my relatives, and maybe even my father, visiting as a small boy.  E. likely even went into my great-grandfather’s small store on Commercial Drive.

Pearl died of a stroke in her 40’s so E. would have seen my great-aunt near the end of her life – and now I have seen E. at the end of her life.   It’s a nice circle of life.   She was a neat lady and a wise elder.

E. had a literary bent, so here are some words by Walt Whitman to mark her passing.  Whitman saw much death and suffering as a nurse in a military hospital during the American Civil war, yet he takes an appealingly confident view in these lines from his poem “Song of Myself (Verse 6)”. 

“All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses/And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier.”

Rest in peace, E.

Driftwood, Flowers and Pear – Sepia Ink
August 17, 2009


Colour Sketches-Watercolour pencil/Watercolour
August 13, 2009


August 6, 2009

“I have traveled widely in Concord” 

– Henry David Thoreau


“The road was new to me, as roads always are, going back.” 

 – Sarah Orne Jewett

The Morning After Blues
August 1, 2009

Yves Klein, a 20th century artist, developed and patented a particular shade of blue and named it International Klein Blue.  He based his artistic career on this colour.

Once he had an exhibition of his work which was by invitation only.  Klein was a well-known artist and people were thrilled to be invited to an exclusive event.  As each guest arrived at the gallery, Klein escorted them into a room with nothing on the walls.  He offered each guest a glass of water to drink and then spoke eloquently about the empty room.   Klein insisted they drink the whole glass of water as he talked.  People were taken aback by the empty gallery.  Some were outraged and stormed out after the talk.

It turned out the show was not about the blank walls.  When the invited guests used the toilet the next day,  they found their pee was coloured International Klein Blue.