Haven Happenings (from Heartwood) 1983 and ’84

Before there was Shen, there was Heartwood. The following are some of the earliest Haven Happenings articles from Heartwood, documenting the challenges and joys of the early days at Haven-By-The-Sea.

Autumn 1983

Author unknown

Haven-By-The-Sea is the name of PD Seminars’ new home on Gabriola Island. During the visit and interview Jock McKeen sits at the dining room table and talks poetically about the move. He describes the process as “Marrying the philosophical with the physical.” Ben Wong meanwhile putters about the room tending to the plants and attuning himself with their new home.

“The easy access of this place from Vancouver, two and one-half hours, was a definite selling point,” says Jock as we looked out and saw the Nanaimo ferry entering the harbor. “The Gabriola ferry is just a twenty minute ride and operates from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. With this service, PD Seminars can present weekend workshops and a full slate of weekend workshops has been prepared. People can come here on a Friday night and return home on Sunday. Bus service from downtown Vancouver is even available to Nanaimo and since the bus terminal is just a short walk from the Gabriola Ferry, travel is easy. A phone call to the lodge will ensure a welcome and a ride from the ferry dock on Gabriola to Haven-By-The-Sea.

The search for a home was, according to both Ben and Jock, a search for the intangible. They wanted a place where people could be nurtured and protected. Taylor Bay where Haven-By-The-Sea is situated has always been such a place; a shelter to head for in a storm, a place of refuge. The setting fit their criteria. As Jock put it, “In our work so many people are seeking meaning, substance, tap roots, deepening. We needed a place that resonated with that kind of sincere endeavor”. At last they found this place and they are now settling in, unpacking boxes, amidst excitement and exhilaration with their choice.

Innkeeping is a new challenge for the dynamic duo and has already engaged them in some surprising new enterprises. Ben in an incredulous voice said, “Did you realize that two tee-totalers like Jock and I have inherited a full A and B liquor licence with this place? I told the liquor inspector that we had spent many hours working very hard to get people away from addictions,” and Ben shook his head ruefully and then grinned. As laughter bubbled forth at the idea of this obvious paradox he added, “ Then I asked for some recipes for the drinks.” Ben, it seems, knows how to transcend even absurd paradoxes.

The atmosphere around the table was feeling more and more like a family reunion as Dianne Anderson, Karel Sars, and eventually others, joined us. Dianne Anderson is the registrar ready to welcome new and old participants to programs. Karel is the resident naturalist and bartender because he was the only person who had any previous experience in this area.

Carol Stewart, Ben interjected, will be the resident associate and many old friends have promised to drop in and put on weekend workshops. A warm welcome from the people at Haven-By-The-Sea is assured.

One new face has been added to the old familiar ones for this September, a resident Acadian poet, Guy Jean. Jock describes Guy as an incisive soul whose poetry talks of a privileged place, a privileged locus, a point in time, a space where extraordinary events occur. At Haven-By-The-Sea extraordinary events seem possible. Guy recently gave Ben and Jock a copy of his book of poetry and wrote a poem in the flyleaf of the book which they agreed to share.

Beyond words and culture
into the realm
of love
and ageless sadness


All the entries below were written by Ben and Jock

Spring 1984

Establishing a comfortable, working space for workshops and guests has proven to be quite a challenge. The island setting was perfect; the location close by Vancouver was ideal; the seven acre site was just right. So Taylor Bay Lodge was acquired and the name changed to “Haven-By-The-Sea” in August 1983.

Very quickly, we discovered only a trickle of water from the three wells (2 deep and 1 surface) from August to November. For months, water had to be trucked in to augment our very short supplies. Now, we are investigating the possibility of converting our old eyesore of a swimming pool into a 25,000 gallon reservoir to tide us over the dry spell.

Although the water came from deep wells, which initially was tested to be safe, we developed a constant involvement in purification systems. In the fall of 1983, we installed an ultraviolet light irradiation purifying system, followed by a chlorinating system in January of 1984. Now, our minds are at rest.

Once we had become accustomed to the shortage of water, the November rains arrived. The basement flooded almost faster than it could be pumped out. The parking lot turned into a quagmire and the lawn into a swamp, necessitating all of us donning hip waders to dig a series of canals in the lawn. Roofs leaked, the hot water heater was drowned and cars got stuck in the lot. Plans now call for the installation of an extensive drainage system and much re-roofing.

Jock, Ben, Xanon ... digging in 1987!

The electrical system was a nightmare! One outlet seemed to alternate between 120V and 240V for no apparent reason, frying a freezer and our new vacuum cleaner in the process. Circuits were so overloaded that making toast nearly always threw a breaker. Outside overhead wiring looked like spaghetti in the sky, so had to be placed underground (quite a feat on this rock called Gabriola). A rewiring program has finally brought us into the twentieth century.

The Big Freeze. 1984

THEN … came the BIG FREEZE! One pump froze and broke. Water lines froze everywhere, some broke and leaked. Some cottages could not be heated properly. Much effort went into insulating buildings and burying water lines.

The worst seems to be over. Now we have a comfortable, functional resort that glows with a warmth and acceptance that can best be described as “home”. Haven has been filled with the spirit of joy and love that has been shared by the hundreds of people who have already visited on retreat or for workshops.

We have always maintained that nobody can really help another without having had some identifiable similar experience as the other. We have had our water shortage, our floods, our electrical and plumbing trials, our big freeze, our roof leaks and our water purification worries. We are now prepared to undertake help for Job!


Summer 1984

Since taking over the Taylor Bay Lodge on Aug. 1, 1983 and renaming it “Haven-By-The-Sea”, we have been busy building and renovating. At the same time, our regular programs have been well attended, and we have been planning many new and exciting ones.

Our original buildings included a lodge (with its dining facility, bar, lounge and 5 bedrooms), the fourplex (4 bedrooms), log cabin (2 bedrooms) and white cottage (1 bedroom) – a total of 12 bedrooms for 24 people. In record time (we were using the session room within a month), our first new building “Great Blue Heron” was completed. It contains a large session room and 8 bedrooms.

Our next major project, another building (“Kingfisher”) with 5 bedrooms, a session room and an apartment for the directors has been completed.

Major renovations that have been completed include a new entrance to the lodge and all glassed waterview sunspace with a large front deck from which the beautiful sunsets can be seen to advantage. The bar was relocated, redecorated and renamed “Raffles”, leaving a comfortable “Satir Lounge” to complement the homey “Sunset Dining Room”. The kitchen and laundry room were refurbished and the lodge was partially rewired.

The sewerage and water systems have all been revamped. The old swimming pool has been converted into a water cistern, covered by a large deck for sunning and dancing. Much of the outside electrical and telephone wires have been placed underground.

Although the initial thrust of our building has been to increase our bed capacity (now 50 beds), our next phase of development will be to upgrade our recreational facilities and to beautify our grounds. We have completed a sauna, and by mid-June, we should have completed our exercise gym with spanking new equipment for body-building. This new building includes facilities for massage and body work. Our friend Clem Bournazel has inaugurated our memory garden by contributing a beautiful hawthorn tree and cherry tree; Frankie and Win Davis brought a holly tree; Joan Hope donated a magnolia; Jerry Glock and Shirley Ronner contributed a rose bush and fruit tree. We are grateful for these gifts of life.

During the summer months, we plan to be open to the general public, renting our rooms and serving meals to vacationers. We will also offer a series of workshops that will fit into the “be good to yourself while you learn” kind of vacation (eg. aerobics, yoga, massage, dance, etc).

An exciting new program being introduced this summer is “My Fair Lady”, which is described in the new schedule. You should also note the new workshops for families, relationships and some for singles. Phototherapy and music therapy are new offerings that will appeal to those in search of creative ways of working on their personal and professional development.

A number of groups have contracted to use our facilities for conferences and meetings. We welcome the opportunity to provide our kind of hospitality for a broad range of activities.

Over the past year, we have been enjoying a warm relationship with the residents of Gabriola Island. Saturday evenings have become somewhat of a tradition of dining and dancing, to the music of singer/guitarist/pianist Kevin Dent. Friday evenings feature quiet candle-lit dining, and music of the Big Band era for dancing. It is worth the easy ferry rides to participate in the weekend good times and excellent food! Why not make plans for a visit in the near future?

Our Birthday Celebration is scheduled for the weekend of August 10-12. We expect to re-experience the zaniness of New Year’s with plays, dances and music! Above all – the good fellowship of our many friends. Since space is limited, reservations are a must!


“All is flux, nothing stays still” (Heraclitus)
Fall 1984

This was to have been a summer of consolidation. It had been a frenzied year of building – three entirely new buildings (the latest being an exercise gymnasium and sauna), renovations in the main lodge and completely new underground systems. It was time to reflect…

But first, we all needed to pool our energies for the first “My Fair Lady Spa” program. Besides the maintenance, kitchen and dining room staff, we had a nuclear staff of 9 (counselors and group leaders), an ancillary staff of 4 (hair stylists, pedicurist and facial masseuse), and a guest staff of 6 people who sang, gave talks and demonstrations on such subjects as colour co-ordination, the Tarot, handwriting analysis, reflexology, hair styling, and exotic dancing. Even with only thirteen participants, the staff had little time for rest. The focus on the inner as well as the outer woman attracted much media interest. A camera crew and a news interviewer landed in a helicopter on our front lawn, and unobtrusively followed everybody around for the day. The 10 minute news presentation was very tastefully aired on four newscasts, and inquiries about our next such program (January ’85) poured in.

When the excitement of the Spa program receded, we were rudely awakened to the facts of running a busy resort. Our dinners became so popular that each day, we all spent time gearing up for what sometimes seemed like chaotic confusion. Inexperience was our greatest handicap. The goodwill and understanding of our guests helped to make our version of “Fawlty Towers” mildly humorous rather than tragically psychotic. To those of you who suffered through with us, we are truly appreciative!

Obviously, our manpower was too short. We had not counted on episodes such as a friend’s beached sailboat! Even with all his sailing background, it took several power boats, all of our hardiest staff and many transient swimmers to move the ship into deep enough waters. The sight of our friend standing like Captain Bligh aboard a tipped Bounty, barking orders at a crowd of swimmers, who were barking at one another and pushing in several directions at one time (while the sailboat remained immobile in a position of despair and resignation), and four hardy souls dangling from one rope from the top of the mast in order to tip the tub, was worth an entire summer’s experience.

And we had not counted on the tearing experience of dealing with drunks. With all our yin energy, we had to band together to be able to protect our sheltered environment from a variety of people of all callings who were disruptive to our peaceful existence. Formal education had never prepared us for that! The sight of some ex-marine in a kung-fu position with an eye riveted on Jock’s jugular was enough to make us check his life insurance!

Although we had closed our campgrounds, nostalgia prompted us to allow a group of kids from a community centre to camp for a few nights. Our visions of sing-songs and stories around an open fire, laughter from group games of volleyball, hide-and-seek and baseball were soon dashed. The lodge became over-run with little bodies glued to the pool table, computer game and television movies! So much for our romanticism about kids and the great out-of-doors!

Water proved to be the source of our greatest anxiety. We began the season with our large cistern filled from our three fresh water wells. We fed our toilets with a separate salt water system. And we installed an elaborate catch system that would collect water from our new metal roofs. However, it didn’t rain. With apprehension, we daily watched our cistern’s water level drop inch by inch. With every inch, each of us developed new neurotic symptoms. On hot sweltering days (of which we had many), it was not uncommon to discover one or another of us transfixed in front of our measuring stick, watching the water level recede. It became our new sport! Another water game! In the middle of these games, the prize for best player went to Xanon Jensen, our maintenance man, who at one point managed to line up two water pumps facing each other on the same line. How’s that for competitive sports?

The New Horizons group in June was a memorable one. With over 40 participants from widely divergent backgrounds, the intellectual and emotional stimulation was exciting. Included among the many challenging experiences was a visit by Michelle Smith and Dr. Larry Pazder, who wrote the book Michelle Remembers. They shared their understandings about Michelle’s experience being raised by a cult of Satanists. Many participants had difficulty sleeping that night. At the end of the program, the entire group, led by Rev. Jack Sproule in a candle-lit service, blessed Haven’s new buildings.

The Wong/McKeen talk on “Love” drew a large audience in July, with musical accompaniment by friends. The songs about love made the event a real “happening”. The audience’s enthusiasm has motivated us to set up more concerts in the near future. On that same weekend of “Love”, one of our group leaders, Anneli Driessen and Dr. Manfred Porkert (author of The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine and The Essentials of Chinese Diagnostics) celebrated their engagement while staying at Haven. Also, many old friends came to visit and share in the warm feelings of the weekend.

Out of fear that idle hands are the devil’s workshop, we inaugurated summer Sunday champagne brunches on Nanaimo’s Bathtub Race Day. From our new seaside deck with its “Cistern Chapel”, we had a magnificent view of the funny little bathtubs racing pell-mell towards Vancouver. Airplanes, helicopters, speedboats, sailing vessels, gliders, balloons, and loud loudspeakers surrounded them and seemed to frighten them onwards. Every Sunday after that remarkable weekend, people came to relish the Eggs Benedict and champagne.


Winter 1984

“The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things
for fire before the hands
for water welling from the earth
For air for the dear earth itself underfoot.”
(H. Beston The Outermost House)

Yes, it finally happened! Our worst fears became a reality when our new 50,000 gallon reservoir ran dry by the end of August. Our own three wells were not up to the task of replenishing the dwindling water reserve. A record dry, beautiful summer provided no rainwater from our many roofs, making our elaborate collecting system look ridiculous.

Thus, it became necessary to buy water by the truckload, costing us close to $100.00 per day during a 20 person program! With the likely prospect of no relief from our own sources until late October, the price would have been disastrous! So, the search for new creative solutions reached new heights. Brainstorming became a way of life among our staff, until we discovered … the Grand Solution!

Hearing rumours about some bottomless wells on neighbouring properties, a real estate agent was given the task of researching these rumours for us. When such a piece of property was discovered, a Haven crew was dispatched to test the well … no small feat. Within a week, a satisfactory well was discovered a block away, and it was promptly attached to our water system through an elaborate thousand foot 2 ½” PVC line.

By mid-September, Haven was again supporting its own water needs. By the end of September, the purchase of this property on which the well is located was finalized. And thus we were back in business!

Shortly before that, it dawned on us that the property also contained a house … all the attention had been devoted to the water supply. So, for a week, many frantic days were spent in cleaning the house, cutting wood, clearing the yard and installing an appropriate water delivery system. A tenant was easily found and moved in by the first of October, and another chapter of the water saga was closed.

Not being creatures of relaxation, our staff turned its collective attention to the lodge. Throughout the past year, many participants have expressed their annoyance over the noisy, hectic hubbub in the Satir Lounge with its television set and pool table. It did strike us as somewhat ungracious to be met at the front entrance by a pool table, especially when it was surrounded by a gang of pool cues aimed at stomach level. With that in mind, the Gomori Room behind the dining room was restructured to be able to accept the pool table and a television set, and the move became imminent.

Thinking that moving a several ton piece of slate and wood deserved an expert, such a person was contracted to move the table. When he did not appear for several days after the scheduled time, we began to eye the monster with growing courage. So, when heaven provided us with a visit from our friendly priest, Father Jack and an encouraging friend John Little who knows no fear, we decided to move it ourselves. With a total of six manly (and otherwise) bodies, and much grunting, sweating and philosophizing (in equal portions), it was slowly moved. In the process, several of its legs fell off, requiring a whole new set of philosophizing and much spiritual encouragement from Father Jack. But finally … it was repaired and in place. If only the event could have been captured on film. The whole affair was similar to a Cecil B. DeMille pageant involving the construction of the pyramids!

Because the Gomori Room was a few feet too short for the pool cues, the back room was called into service. The wall between the two rooms was ripped open, and an open-spaced window was created. Weight bearing studs in the wall had to be left: so, they became decorative posts. With the addition of several fire exit signs, panic doors and emergency light, the Gomori Room was able to be liquor licensed. So now, guests can play pool, have a beer and smoke, all at the same time, without having to sit on top of one another!

More and more people have begun to realize and take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of a few days of quiet retreat. Thus, we attempted to provide rooms for the experience of peace and quiet. However, the fall programs were chock full. Come Alive became completely booked far into 1985, with long waiting lists. To accommodate everybody, beds had to be moved around, extra rooms had to be called into service, and at times people had to be billeted in neighbouring facilities. So, again our thoughts have turned towards more building …?

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