Elizabeth Anderson has enjoyed artwork since she was old enough to hold a pencil or crayon. As a little girl, she used to make paint out of crushed berries. Art was Elizabeth’s major in Berkeley. It has been a passion, albeit not a means of livelihood, throughout her life. One of her most recent projects is a series of Species at Risk gift cards for the Friends of Cortes Island Society (FOCI).
Elizabeth and her first husband left California during the Vietnam War.
She met Leonard Woywitka in Alberta.
Coming to Cortes
Elizabeth and Leonard were married by the time they came to Cortes Island in 1994. A friend described the island as “being like you died and went to heaven.”
“When I came here, I said ‘oh my God, I am home! It is so much like Marin County (California)m” said Elizabeth. “It has all the same flora and fauna: Douglas fir, Manzanita, Arbutus trees. It also reminded me of the High Sierra, all these places that I really loved – and it was almost affordable and in Canada.”
She added,” When I said I’m home, Len said ‘well, I’m not.’ He’s a prairie guy. It was a bit of a stretch for him, but he had loved California. It was hard to drag him away from there, but we had to. He had injured himself and we weren’t able to do the work we had been doing anymore. We had to go back to where we had medical coverage.”
So they settled on Cortes.
FOCI was operational by that time.
“I was interested, but have time. I had two kids, then my mother – and my mother was more than ten kids,” said Elizabeth.
Then I Got Really Sick
“Then I got really sick. My thyroid quit on me. My mind was in a constant state of fog and I simply could not be trusted to be able to function the next day. I never seemed to get better, even though I was taking medication. It took me a long time to figure out that I had to quit dairy, wheat and cut way back on sugar. You don’t hear that from doctors. So I had to figure it out for myself, which was hard.”
Cortes Island Seniors Society
After she recovered, Sue Ellingsen asked Elizabeth to join the board of the Cortes Island Senior’s Society.
“I said, I like people to be nice. I do not like to be on boards where people are arguing.”
“Oh, we’re pretty good,” said Ellingsen.
Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI)
After Helen Hall was hired to be FOCI’s Executive Director, in 2015, she asked Elizabeth to be on the board.
“I didn’t know how I was going to fit in,” said Elizabeth. “I know nothing about organizations and what they involved, but the Whaletown Community Club decided they weren’t going to do any more salad bars. I thought, they make around $1,000. So I mentioned it to Helen.”
“‘Great, as long as you are happy to take it on’,” responded Hall.
“Don’t worry, I’ll do it,” said Elizabeth.
So she took a course, and FOCI began offering a salad bar at Cortes events.
“Then I thought, we should have some cards or something because we need green sales. I’ve been making cards for a long time, but this time we could sell them. So I started making cards – and they sold.”
The first batch were Christmas cards.
Species At Risk Gift Cards
Then Hall asked her to make cards for endangered species. So she made the blue heron, tree frog and salmon. Then she was asked for a humpback whale, and a night hawk.
“I’d go online and look for a photo of whatever I was looking for and then draw it from that.”
She proceeded to tell stories of the animals.
When she was 20, Elizabeth flew up to Alaska to go fishing with a friend. She became seasick, when she went out on his fishing boat, but was captivated by the eagles.
“There were so many eagles and they would be flying all around. They’d get in a flight, tumble head over claw and escape just before they hit. It was such a wonderful experience to be there in that setting. The only downside was that it rained every bloody day.”
She added that there are nighthawks on Cortes Island. They nest on the ground, and rise up at dawn and dusk to hunt.
“As far as I know, the rest of the time they are sitting tight.”
Humpback Whales disappeared from the area for close to 150 years, so when they returned FOCI decided to help raise awareness by making a card.