Beach bubble ballet

Missing live performances? Head down to the Qualicum Beach waterfront on any given day and you might catch a spectacular performance — giant flying jellyfish! Or, so you might tell the wee ones… Giant bubbles created by QB resident Cathrine Conarroe delighted beach goers of all ages last week. The fine weather was just icing on the cake.

Qualicum Beach, BC April 2021. Bubbles by Cathrine Conarroe

For many people, this past year has brought more than its share of disruption and grief, and Cathrine is no exception. “This brings me such joy,” she says. “I would have never have done this if it wasn’t for the pandemic.”

Though “not planned,” her life has come full circle. “It’s what was meant to be,” she says. Born in Victoria, Cathrine moved to the United States when she was a child, and has lived most of her life in Hawaii, notably making a mark for herself as an award-winning jewelry designer under the name Cici Maui Designs. Some of her pieces are also available here on Vancouver Island at the Village Gallery in Tofino.

In 2018, after learning that her mother was suffering from a terminal illness, Cathrine returned to Vancouver Island to care for her mother at home. Her mother died in March 2020. Having been “constantly on call” under such difficult circumstances left Cathrine adrift, with a lot of healing to do herself. While walking on the beach at Qualicum one day “trying to process” her mother’s passing, she saw someone creating large bubbles. “I was mesmerized,” she says.

Cathrine searched Youtube for instructions and soon had a “kit” prepared. It works like this. Two uneven lengths of cotton macramé yarn connected by long bamboo poles are dipped in a solution of Dawn dish soap, baking power and guar gum, and then skillfully released into the air.

Cathrine Conarroe, Qualicum Beach, BC. April 2021
Artwork courtesy of Ava and Annie who drew these delightful cards for Cathrine while dining at Shore restaurant, watching the bubble ballet.

Environmentally conscious, she says, “It’s the same soap used to remove oil from birds caught in oil spills.”

For those of you who want to try your hand at this, the recipe is: mix 1 cup dish soap, 1 Tbsp baking powder and 1 Tbsp guar gum in a 1 gallon container with a little hot water, then fill with cold water. Next step: head to the beach!

“It’s brought a lot of joy to people,” says Cathrine, “and it made things better for me. It’s part of my life now.” She says she finds the hour-long sessions meditative. “You get your [bare] feet in the sand and get grounded.” A favorite saying of hers is “Life is not waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Invariably, people stop to watch her beach bubbles, some ask how it’s done, but most just enjoy the magic. Children especially. Two little girls who were watching Cathrine while having supper on the deck at Shore restaurant, ran out on the sand to give her thank you cards they had created about her performance. 

Cathrine has remained here on the Island to help her 90 year old “papa,” a twenty-year resident of Qualicum Beach. Still, she makes time for her therapeutic beach bubble ballet sessions to decompress, a practice especially helpful after a friend in her mid-thirties took her own life. “This is my happy place,” she says. “I probably go out at least four days a week.” She’s even gone bubbling (if that’s a word) in winter, even when there’s snow or ice on the ground. Cathrine took her kit up to Mount Washington snowshoeing. “The bubbles land softly and remain there, breathing on the snow.”

On the anniversary of her mother’s death last month, Cathrine spread her mother’s ashes on a beach near Victoria, and released giant bubbles “dancing into the sky” in a parting tribute.

Cathrine Connaroe can be contacted at Cici Maui Designs Facebook page, and also answers to the hashtag #islandbubblegirl on Instagram.

VIDEO: Cathrine Conarroe floating bubbles out over the ocean at Qualicum Beach, BC. April 2021