Tag Archives: art

Jordan Weiss – East Sooke, BC

By Kim Goldberg 

July 30, 2013

Jordan Weiss (Photo © Kim Goldberg 2013)

Jordan Weiss
(Photo © Kim Goldberg 2013)

With sketchpad in hand, Jordan Weiss walks out his back door and perches on a rocky bluff overlooking the Juan de Fuca Strait and the forested shores of the Olympic Peninsula beyond. The only sound as he works is the occasional rustle of dry grass and the shushing of his pencil across the pad. 

For many, the tranquil and unhurried life here in rural East Sooke on southern Vancouver Island would be a dream come true. But for a teenager who is here by necessity, this paradise can also be a prison. 

“I am very isolated here,” says 19-year-old Jordan. “I have very little socialization beyond my family.” 

The reason for Jordan’s isolation is his extreme sensitivity to wireless radiation. Exposure to wi-fi, cell towers, and even cell phones causes a range of physical maladies for Jordan as well as horrifying “night terrors”—a form of sleep-walking that can result in serious injury, and has on more than one occasion. 

Weiss Family: Karen, Tom, Jordan , Colin (and family dog Keisha)

Weiss Family: Karen, Tom, Jordan , Colin (and Australian shepherd Keisha)
(Photo © Kim Goldberg 2013)

In 2012, Jordan’s parents uprooted the family from their Cadboro Bay neighbourhood near University of Victoria and purchased the remote house and 3-acre parcel in East Sooke in a desperate bid to escape wireless radiation and give Jordan a chance to live a healthy life. (Jordan’s mother is also electrosensitive, but his father and older brother are not.) 

The isolated rural setting of East Sooke, located to the west of Victoria on southern Vancouver Island, offers  a lower ambient level of electromagnetic radiation. (Photo © Kim Goldberg 2013)

The isolated rural setting of East Sooke offers a lower ambient level of electromagnetic radiation.
(Photo © Kim Goldberg 2013)

After much looking at rural properties within commuting distance of Victoria where both parents still work, the family found an area in East Sooke that, because of landscape configuration, offered little or no cell phone reception. A handful of houses are located on that strip of land. One of those houses was for sale. 

(Interestingly, another of these properties belongs to a building biologist who bought there for the same reason—to reduce exposure to ambient wireless radiation. At the rate electrosensitivity is increasing in the population, one can only wonder how many years it will be before “No cell phone reception” becomes a coveted selling feature for real estate.) 

“Moving out here is not the complete answer,” Jordan tells me. “It’s a good start. But, as a teenager, I still can’t go out there and do the stuff I want to do.” 

Most teenage activities are in wi-fi’ed locations—whether it’s a café, school, rec centre, or private home. Nor are teenagers inclined to turn off their cell phones when asked. 

Jordan cooks us up an omelette with his special sauce. (Photo © Kim Goldberg 2013)

Jordan cooks us up an omelette with his special sauce.
(Photo © Kim Goldberg 2013)

“They make fun of me,” Jordan says of his attempts to ask friends to shut off their phones. “They don’t want to say it, but they think it’s all in my head. I want to be around people who love me for who I am and are not always on their cell phones.” 

Jordan’s electrosensitivity first manifest when he was 11, soon after he got orthodontic braces. (This is an increasingly common scenario for many electrosensitive children due to wi-fi in schools. Metal dental braces literally become an antenna, drawing ambient radiation into a child’s head.) Jordan began experiencing blistering headaches, nausea, clumsiness, weak legs, inability to focus or retain information, and severe exhaustion. 

His mother Karen believes the underlying trigger for Jordan’s electrosensitivity may reach as far back as pre-school when his daycare for two years of his life was across the street from a cell tower. 

Jordan’s symptoms swelled to crisis proportions when the family renovated their former home and installed wi-fi and cordless DECT 6.0 phones throughout, including beside Jordan’s bed. He felt awful at friends’ homes with wi-fi, and felt great when sleeping over at friends’ homes without wi-fi. 

After much research, investigation, and visits to doctors and sleep clinics, Jordan’s parents finally identified the cause of his problems: wireless radiation. They removed the wi-fi and cordless phones from their home, and Jordan immediately improved—at least for his hours spent at home. 

“It’s like being allergic to society.”

“When we first figured out what was wrong, we were relieved,” Jordan’s mother Karen recalls. “At last we had an answer. But then we thought about what it means—it’s like being allergic to society.” 

From his balcony, Jordan surveys the rugged rural terrain of East Sooke, and the Juan de Fuca Strait beyond. (Photo © Kim Goldberg 2013)

From his balcony, Jordan surveys the rugged rural terrain of East Sooke, and the Juan de Fuca Strait beyond.
(Photo © Kim Goldberg 2013)

The move to East Sooke has virtually put an end to the harrowing and dangerous night terrors. Yet every foray out into the world to attend an art class or social gathering or a meeting of the local mountain bike club risks a re-appearance of symptoms due to ubiquitous wireless radiation. 

“It is really a life-altering issue that adds an entirely new dimension to almost every decision Jordan makes,” Karen says. 

Jordan is a young man of many talents. He cooks us a scrumptious omelette made with his special sauce, then sits on the sofa and plays the Djembe (an African drum) with gusto. He tells me he would someday like to create graphic novels and design video games. A display case in the hall holds an impressive sampling of his sculptural works and other art. 

Yet with electrosensitivity dictating where he can and cannot go, limiting his training opportunities as well as social interaction and future workplaces, Jordan faces more challenges than most young people in discovering his path through this world and how to ply his talents in it. 

Jordan playing the Djembe. (Photo © Kim Goldberg)

Jordan playing the Djembe.
(Photo © Kim Goldberg)

In earlier years, he had wanted to be an architect. But now, the prospect of spending years at university—awash as they all are in wi-fi, cell towers, cell phones, iPads, laptops, and myriad other wireless devices—seems out of reach. 

Last winter, Jordan was training to be a ski instructor at Mount Washington on Vancouver Island. But the presence of a cell tower, plus the radios they all had to carry, nixed that plan. 

Most people, if asked to describe their ideal life, would talk about getting a piece of land, or finding that special someone, or having the time and money to write novels, or just kicking back in a thatched palapa on a tropical beach. 

When I ask Jordan what his ideal life would be, he immediately replies: “A life without pain or sickness.” 

And to a large degree, that is what he now has at his new home in East Sooke. His special refuge is rugged East Sooke Park, located just below his home. He visits it frequently with his Australian shepherd, Keisha. 

“I have always been drawn to flowing water,” Jordan tells me. “There’s one spot I hike to at East Sooke Park with Keisha—it’s overlooking a chasm. There’s water crashing all around me, and I just lie there until Keisha wanders off and I have to go get her.” 

Text and images © Kim Goldberg, 2013 

(Jordan Weiss’s story will be included in Kim Goldberg’s forthcoming book REFUGIUM: Wi-Fi Exiles and the Coming Electroplague, due out in 2014. Read more people’s stories here.)

Dar Churcher – Colwood, BC

By Kim Goldberg

July 17, 2013

Dar Churcher Photo © Kim Goldberg

Dar Churcher
Photo © Kim Goldberg

In 1992, Victoria artist Dar Churcher was poised to expand her successful art career into the international arena when she was stricken with a mysterious ailment. Her worsening symptoms included fatigue, insomnia, extreme headaches, eye pain, and muscular weakness that at times caused her to collapse on the ground with paralyzed legs. 

Thirteen years and many doctors later, Dar finally had a diagnosis: she had Lyme disease. Her doctor estimates she contracted it around 1988 and probably while hiking the woodsy trails of Metchosin, a rural area west of Victoria known by health authorities to be infested with Lyme-infected ticks. 

Dar is also severely electrosensitive—a condition that frequently accompanies Lyme disease. In fact, treatment protocols for Lyme disease place high priority on reducing exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). 

“People with Lyme disease have compromised nervous systems,” Dar explains. “And mine is shot. I think we are all at risk for electrosensitivity. But those of us already sensitive to something else are the first to react. We are the canaries in the global coal mine.” 

Lyme disease affects the central nervous system and can involve demyelination, not unlike multiple sclerosis in which neurons loose their insulating sheaths. Dar believes this loss of neural insulation leaves her nervous system much more sensitive to external EMF in the same way that improperly shielded wiring is subject to interference from outside signals. 

In Dar’s case, exposure to wireless radiation in particular can instantly trigger a flare-up of her Lyme symptoms, causing her legs to buckle as she falls to the ground and is unable to get up or walk.  

“Because of my hyper-electrosensitivity I loathe going inside any buildings,” Dar tells me as we sit chatting across her kitchen table in her basement suite at her mother’s home in Colwood. 

“There are few people I know who actually collapse [when exposed to wireless radiation]. But that’s what happens to me,” she explains. “It has happened to me in the bank, the bakery, at the vet’s, the post office. I have had to crawl out of so many buildings I can’t count them all.” 

Dar in her studio working on The Snail Choja sculpture
Photo © Ray St. Arnaud
http://www.raymondstarnaud.com/

Every wall and surface in her apartment is filled with her stunning sculptures from her once-thriving career as a sculptor and private art teacher. Her best-known work is her interactive installation piece “Just Imagine”, an enormous walk-in book that was exhibited years ago at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. 

But that career is now permanently on hold—“sabotaged” Dar says by Lyme disease and electrosensitivity. 

Dar enjoys a quiet moment in her lush backyard Photo © Kim Goldberg

Dar enjoys a quiet moment in her lush backyard
Photo © Kim Goldberg

Dar now spends much of her time confined to a wheelchair. Yet she is able to walk short distances when out in nature, away from wireless radiation and other sources of EMF. 

“When I distance myself from the built-up area of my home and drive into the country, I can, on good days, make it around a small park,” she says. “And when I am by the water—a beach, a lake—my muscles relax and I feel much better.” 

For many electrosensitive people, their home is their only true sanctuary. But when electrosensitivity has left someone too impoverished to continue working, then ‘home’ is wherever that person is lucky enough to find affordable rent. 

Dar’s basement apartment is located near two FM towers and one cell tower. And despite the semi-rural appearance of Colwood, there are more than 70 towers and cell masts within a 5-kilometer radius of her home, according to Industry Canada’s website. 

“These radio emissions place a great stress on my body,” she tells me. “I desperately need to live in a location where electro-smog is non-existent so that my sleep will improve, my energy levels will increase and I can start to heal and recover my health.” 

But Dar’s current rent of $400/month, paid for with her monthly disability cheque, makes moving unlikely. Besides which, she is also the caregiver for her 91-year-old mother who comes home on weekends. 

“Even though my house is not my refuge, it’s the best I can do under the circumstances,” she explains with surprising cheerfulness. 

Despite her 20-year ordeal, Dar has somehow managed to retain an optimistic outlook and a keen interest in the world around her. She asks me about my own book Red Zone, for which I wandered Nanaimo’s homeless community for three years, recording in poetry all that I witnessed. 

“How did they respond to you?” she asks eagerly. “And what made you want to do the book?” 

The Blue-Eyed Hare & The Beekeeper Photo © Bob Matheson

The Blue-Eyed Hare & The Beekeeper
by Dar Churcher
Photo © Bob Matheson

Her eyes sparkle as she takes me through the rooms of her home, describing with much enthusiasm the story behind every sculpture in her multi-year and unfinished “Transformations” project. Each sculpture captures a moment in a folktale of human transformation—a girl becomes a blue-eyed hare and then human again, an ardent suitor becomes a flower to be picked by his beloved, a snail becomes a man while bowed in prayer.  

“My overall goal with this project has been to reflect common threads of human need, desire, goodness and virtue,” Dar explains. “These traits are found in every culture throughout the world. They help define and unite humanity. Without their expression, we would degenerate and devolve.” 

Princess Fleur-De-Lis & The Rooted Lover Photo © Bob Matheson

Princess Fleur-De-Lis & The Rooted Lover
by Dar Churcher
Photo © Bob Matheson

As an artist, Dar is every bit as fascinated by the creative process of others as by her own. But due to her circumstance, she seldom goes out in public and rarely has visitors, so she has little opportunity for creative co-mingling. 

“From my isolated cocoon, my computer is an umbilical cord to the outside world,” she explains. Yet even the computer is problematic because of its EMF and also her sensitivity to light. The blinds on every window in her basement suite are closed for the sunny afternoon of our visit on the summer solstice. 

The Snail Choja Photo © Dar Churcher

The Snail Choja (work in progress)
by Dar Churcher
Photo © Dar Churcher

We move outside to take some photos in her patio garden and her lush, tree-lined backyard. But the ambient radiation from the neighbourhood is higher outside. And, combined with the sunlight and the stress of our prolonged conversation, it is all too much. By the time I take the last photo, her legs buckle and she must crawl on her hands and knees across her yard to reach her door. 

I am dumbstruck by the swiftness of her demise. One moment she is standing, the next she’s on the ground, and the moment after that she’s crawling—as though all people get around this way. 

Yet I also have to marvel at such determination and resiliency. And although I don’t quite have the words to put it all together, I know that somehow her passion for those folktales of transformation is also now fuelling her well-practiced and rhythmic crawl across the grass. 

Copyright © Kim Goldberg, 2013

(Dar Churcher’s story will be included in Kim Goldberg’s forthcoming book REFUGIUM: Wi-Fi Exiles and the Coming Electroplague, due out in 2015. Read more people’s stories here. Visit Dar’s website at: http://www.darchurcher.com.)