Alternative roots, ‘work less’ philosophy guide Denman Islander’s life
Megan Rose explored city living – Vancouver, Montreal, London – but came back to her Denman Island roots in 2012. Here she feels connected to the people and to the place, through her art, music, writing, organic gardening, wild food foraging, activism, co-operatives and trail running through the woods.
Growing up alternative-style on Denman Island in the 1980s is the foundation she has built on.
“My parents were total hippies. It was cabin-in-the-woods living – we had electricity but no flush toilet. The shower was outside; the kitchen was outside.”
Her parents – Mum emigrated from England and Dad was an American student avoiding the Vietnam War draft – met at the Hornby Island pub and made a business crafting maple flooring, milled and kiln-dried on their Denman Island property.
“I think of my Dad as kind of an intellectual logger,” Megan says. “My Mum had an organic garden and we raised chickens and pigs – that definitely rubbed off on me.”
One of Megan’s business branches includes dried organic herbs grown in her garden, foraged Chanterelle mushrooms, and her artisan organic hazelnut Hedgehog Sauce.
Co-ops are the way of the future!
Like many Gulf Islanders, Megan is in tune with cooperative values. She and husband Eli Hason are part of a chicken co-op where three families contribute to the cost of housing and feeding 16 chickens (on their property) and they all share the eggs. They also have a boat co-op with two other couples who share use of the boat.
“We are usually boating together anyway. Co-ops are the way of the future!”
Work less philosophy
She embraces the ‘work less’ philosophy of Conrad Schmidt, leader of the Work Less Party of British Columbia, whom she says was a big influence on her while she was living in Vancouver in the early 2000s.
“A main philosophy is that if you work less, you consume less and you have more time for life,” Megan says.
Where work, art and life meet
Like many Islanders, her income has a wide variety of sources and the line between life and work are blurred.
In her garage-turned studio, a mix of bicycles, instruments, a sewing machine, and a variety of tools and craft supplies are a glimpse into Megan’s livelihoods and loves.
Bicycles are a passion.
In 2010, she cycled more than 6000 km across Canada – starting on Denman Island and arriving in Halifax 79 days later. Her 2013 honeymoon incorporated a 1000 km bike ride from Stockholm to Berlin.
These cycling adventures – plus volunteering at a bicycle co-op – developed a new marketable skill: bicycle mechanic.
“There’s no formal training out there to be a bike mechanic. I learned out of necessity doing roadside mechanics during bike trips.”
Crafting jewelry and more
Working with bicycle parts inspired her Rose Pedals Jewelry line in 2011.
The earrings and necklaces made from rubber inner tubes and bike chain parts are one of her main sources of income.
“My Etsy shop [an online market] is doing better than anything I do in person. It’s a good time to be online. Especially with Covid-19.”
She hosts Etsy workshops to teach people how to create their own online store.
“I like managing a do-it-yourself business and I like helping other people manage their DIY businesses.”
She has been crafting since she was a child. At age 10 she was one of the youngest Denman Christmas Craft Fair vendors.
“I was inspired by Lee Andra Jacobs’ beaded jewelry. I totally copied one of her designs, but she was so gracious and encouraging.”
Today, Megan’s jewelry, cork leather bags, masks and slouchy fleece caps are also sold in her studio, at retailers, craft fairs, and at another co-operative, The Denman Craft Shop. She volunteers at the shop once a week and in return the shop takes a reduced commission on her art sales.
Now she’s focused on a new creative venture, designing intricate beaded earrings under her new brand Island Kraftwerk.
Music and comedy
Then there is Megan the performer. She sings, plays guitar, banjo and keyboard. Her parents were folk music fans and her dad made a few classical guitars – one of which Megan still has. But, she says, “The musical gene probably came from my great uncle Norman Wilson who was a wonderful English folk singer and song writer.”
At 18, she headed to Vancouver to enroll in BCIT’s sound engineer program, seeing it as a ‘responsible’ career in the music field. When the program was canceled, she stayed for the music scene and waitressed for steady income.
In 2008 she moved to England where she spent a few years singing and playing music in London. “It was super-fun living there. But there are way too many musicians trying to make it.”
Her music carries themes of activism. She recorded her first album, Sexy Pair of Pedals in 2007. The title track was written for a documentary about the World Naked Bike Ride (another Conrad Schmidt invention; Megan has participated in the Vancouver, London and Cumberland rides.) She launched her second album Maiden China in 2017, with themes of anti-consumerism.
Comfortable on stage, she is also a stand-up comedian and sketch performer. She attended ‘comedy school’ – two-weeks of intensive classes at the Second City Training Centre in Chicago – and she also took a weekend comedy sketch-writing and performance workshop in Seattle, led by comedian Kevin McDonald of Kids in the Hall and Saturday Night Live.
Cool stuff happening
She has performed both comedy and music locally. She loves the current vibe on Denman Island and the changing demographics.
“I feel like it’s super-vibrant now. There are awesome people moving here, lots of children, a new preschool and cool stuff is happening, like the farmer’s market and music festivals.”
She and Eli are a part of the cool stuff happening. Event planners at heart, they initiated the annual Cross Pollination outdoor music festival on Denman Island in 2016.
“I remember as a kid, the Blackberry Fair on the fields beside the school would be full of people dancing. I wanted to see that again.”
Connections are key
Whether Megan actually ‘works less’ is debatable, but she makes time for her health and wellbeing.
A trail runner for the past decade, she runs 7-12 km every other day and has recently added a chilly dip in Chicadee Lake at the end of her run. Both are methods to combat seasonal affected disorder (SAD) through our long, grey winters. That and staying connected to her community.
“What I love about Denman Island, besides the amount of nature and wild spaces, are the connections I have with so many people here.”
One more place you might see Megan? At the Denman Island Post Office where she works one day a week.
Years ago, she worked at the Denman Island General Store.
“Everyone works at the General Store at some point,” she says. “It’s a right of passage.”
Written by Trish Weatherall
Published in The Islands Grapevine, December 10, 2020