Becoming Grandparent

Seeing my daughter’s belly grow awakens memories of her and I when we were both young. When I was 22 and she was newborn, when we were beginning the early years of our development. New mother, new baby. Sharp learning curve. If only I knew then what I know now. Then, I didn’t fully grasp the trajectory of my role as mother, I only knew I was a young single woman with a child. We were a pair, her and I, with a close bond.

But I was ill prepared for what I was embarking on. I worked to keep us off welfare. And it’s true in hind site only do I recognize I struggled in keeping us housed, clothed and fed without really identifying with the fact I was struggling, because I suppose I was ignorant, which perhaps I misinterpreted as being happy. A false sense of bliss? No, I believe I was happy. And things seemed to work out in a slip shod way. God looks after children and fools.

It was a bumpy ride. No doubt about that.

I do wish I had slowed down and savored that era a bit more deeply.  A regret that chafes. To have fully understood and embraced my role as mother. I do wish I had had the steely determination to have focused on a career too. To be fair I did attempt, but was met with financial limitations. I just wish I had been a stronger woman, stronger mother.

But that was then and we survived. More than survived, we have thrived.

This is now. I’m going to be a grandmother in a couple of months. I’m getting used to those words, those good words, although I still feel like a twenty-something in my head. I am taking what I didn’t know then but knowing full well now to appreciate what the significance this new role, this new era of my life, will hold. I see my daughter in a different place than where I was at 22.

Maybe because she’s 36. She has a mid-wife, and a Doula, a home with a partner. More prepared than I ever was. Like a grown up. She’s a strong woman, she’ll be an excellent mother.

And I wonder is this what becoming a grandparent gifts us with? I have to say it’s not without some bittersweetness. What I would give to do over again. These saturated feelings of anticipation, excitement, joy, awareness, of bringing a human into the world. But now it’s her turn, my daughter. And I vicariously get that second chance.

I think this is what becoming a grandparent gifts us with.

 

 

 

Salad Days

I tend to garden by trial and error. I don’t get too fussy but I like to grow things and especially love having a vegetable garden. It continues to impress me that I can put this small unassuming seed into the dirt and in return will bestow pounds of food for me to eat. Incredible. Notably plants like the cucumber, chard and beans, I mean you pick and pick and it keeps forthcoming! What kind of food fountain magic is this? Makes me question this ongoing issue of global food shortages.

And to eat a home-grown tomato is still a high point of summer bliss. Ok one point. Summer has many.

Some things I plant don’t always pan out, like artichoke. I LOVE artichokes, and they’re expensive to buy so I have planted one each year but they never make it, like the one I planted this year, but I’ll try again next spring. I included Brussel Sprouts for the first time this year too, can’t wait to see how they turn out.

I have a variety of squashes, things that will keep during winter and am especially happy to finally see  butternuts growing, another vegetable tried several times but without success. If you want the most delicious pumpkin pie, don’t use pumpkin. Use butternut. It’s transforming. Next year I want to expand on winter crops, see how long we can eat off these humble patches of dirt.

The other night we had forgotten to close our front gate and a deer wandered through and dined heavily on the beans, but I didn’t mind- this time- I had already harvested several pounds, there was enough to share.

And deer are fickle. They never ate the potato plant. Ever. Until last year, again coming through a forgotten open gate, and literally cleared out all the potato plants to sticks. Didn’t touch a bean. I have planted potatoes for twenty-six years, and not once ! My three rows of potatoes this time suffered only a very light graze on a couple of plants.

In my early days of gardening here we had no fence and would lose much of the garden each year before it could produce any food. I even had Hostas planted for years that I never witnessed flowering because they were continually eaten down to mere stalks, ditto for any roses, and tulips I just stopped planting them.

I have used straw to mulch these last two years and that’s helped to keep things moist enough, but I need to walk my beach and collect seaweed to add to the soil , a resource that’s readily accessible and super beneficial.  I’ve also been reading up on No Tilling and Layer gardening to try next year. It’s a process, gardening, see what works and it’s forgiving. Good thing for my bumbling attempts.

 

Hazy Days

When I look out my window I swear I’ve time travelled back to my youth in Southern California. The time of the hot Santa Anna winds and the orange tinged choked sky from the burning Laguna canyon that would hang over us for days. The time of fuming freeways yellowing the horizon. News channel says our Vancouver air quality this last week is worse than Beijing. My eyes are burning.

When the sun rises it rises as a red orb. When high noon a pale yellow smudge. When it sets it’s a red orb again. The sunshine coast across the Salish sea has disappeared, along with the other gulf islands out there. Even the trees down the road seem as though they stand behind a gauzy curtain.

The Province has been and still is on fire. Again. Last year it was the same scenario, except Vancouver Island was also among the stricken. This year we’ve been spared- so far. There have been a couple of tiny fires along the highways grassy  meridians that were extinguished before they got out of hand, leaving large black swaths in their wake, and you know full well that was caused by an idiots tossed cigarette.

My heart goes out to the thousands evacuated knowing they will be losing their possessions to the flames. And I can imagine the jubilant relief of those that were allowed back to their intact homes when danger passed. Like the guy from Williams Lake who was so happy to return home from an evacuation that he got drunk and shot off fireworks.

People.

Summer Time and the living is Busy- and Fun

The aftermath crash of an empty, quiet house since our July company departed resonates with a small shush of a vacuum. We reclaim our space like a puddle of water spreading back into cracks and crevices. A tiny empty nest sensation pervades but more the satisfaction of time well spent with these family members from Ontario over the twenty days. Ten days with Dan then a three day turn over before Mel and Crystal arrived for ten days. We packed on the kilometers showing them our beautiful west coast island home.

We covered as much as we could cram in to make their trip memorable from Long Beach on the Pacific Rim, walking across the Kinsol Trestle, Sail boating on our little Auklet, backyard BBQ’s to Alpine walks in Paradise Meadows, chilling a bit on our little island at home, swimming in the local river, taking in the Sand Sculptures and the weekend blast of our cities Bathtub Race to taking the lift to the mountain top of Mount Washington. We took them on the tiny Mill Bay ferry over to Buchart’s Garden in Brentwood Bay and walks through the capital city Victoria.

Ah, Victoria yes, walking the historic downtown with Bob and his brother Dan, pointing out the architecture, when what I thought was a gush of water from an overhead flower box was in fact the fecal bombing of a passing seagull. Oh yes, landing square on top of my head. Feel the seeping into the hair if you will. Prompted an immediate return to our motel, driving with all windows down because the high piercing reek of rotten fish permeated the car, and a jump into the shower.

I handled it well. Laughed, didn’t lose my cool. I took it as an omen of good fortune. Ya.

Then getting back into the car to head back downtown to pick up where we left off our car blew some sort of hose which we then had to immediatly take to the dealer mechanic ten minutes to closing time, but they said they’d wait.  Yep guy says, there is no way you could drive this car back up island. Said he should have it ready by Monday, and this was Friday, and they didn’t have a courtesy car available either.

I grumbled my waxing disappointment for BMW’s. Six year old car, we’ve had for two, and it’s been in the shop already several times. Dealer bought too. Then no courtesy car, or even a voucher for a rental. Fail.

But I digress, long story short next morning they came through with the courtesy car and we were able to continue on with our day touring around the city’s surrounding area in the Mini Cooper, or the clown car, said my six-foot two husband. All ended on a high happy note, with this minor hiccup.

Then there was the exhilarating pins and needles drive following the dictates of our Google Maps when searching for the quickest route back from the Saanich Peninsula to Mill Bay (rather than taking the tiny ferry back across) which took us the back roads way into Goldstream Provincial Park . You had to be there.

So we did it. We were good hosts and ambassadors and had a ton of fun being tourists ourselves in our own backyard. Leaving Bob and I promising we need to continue exploring this big island for ourselves instead of waiting for company to come.

Signage at the top of Mt. Washington, a Whiskey Jack on top of top of the world. These birds are ridiculously fearlessly social. Put a hand out and they will land on it. Have food in your hand and they are your new best friend.

 

The view dropping over the edge on the way down from Mt. Washington.

 

The reaction of a flat lander when the earth drops from under you on the way down from the top of Mt. Washington. It’s OK she was fine the rest of the way.

 

Day at the Kinsol Trestle in Shawnigan.

 

Choosing a route at Paradise Meadows in the Sub-Alpine.

 

Open Meadows of the sub- alpine.

 

The Buchart’s Gardens, well a small section of it. It’s huge, took 31/2 hours.

 

Swimming in our local river, a first ever river swim for our guests. It was splendid.

 

A must-stop at Ellis River en route to Tofino and Long Beach.

 

Long Beach at sunset. A young woman heading for the surf. One day by gum I’m gonna do that.

 

Dan at Long Beach, contemplating leaving Ontario winters and moving West perhaps.

 

One of several Sand Sculptures.

 

Our famous, and this year most treacherous in sixty years due to extreme conditions, Bathtub Race!

 

Warrants two spots in my blog. Bone crushing for both tubber and their escort boat. 33 tubs entered and only 4 finished. Last one taking 5 hours to come in. Thanks to a local -unknown to me- photographer for these shots I pulled from our little island community fb page.

 

Another day closed, but we head into town for some music from my sons new band playing at a local pocket cocktail bar called The Nanaimo Bar ~

 

Prince George to Vancouver

Ok, it’s catch up time. I want to share the journey from Prince George to Vancouver, which happened over a week ago- but feels like months ago because the last two weeks have been cram happy busy! Days after returning home my daughter drove out from Kimberley, bringing rug-nuts Dexter and Jackson in tow, to visit for the week and it was a packed week. She left for home on the 6 am ferry today (which meant getting up at 4:30) and I have just enough time – two days- to blast clean through the house, visit my mom, and prepare for my Brother-in-Law’s ten day visit from Ontario. Hot on his heels – three days in fact- of his departure two more relatives are coming in also from Ontario to spend ten days with us, and I look forward to showing them all around Vancouver Island!

So having nearly gut cleaned my house all day today, after being away nearly a month in Kimberley then off to Prince George, then my daughter’s visit who had time or desire to really clean?  This is my window to sit and collect the events over the last couple of weeks and take a deep breath.

Wait, I’m gonna make some tea first.

Ok, Prince George, Fort George, named after King George, was a fur trading settlement, now it has three pulp mills. Air quality is an issue, although the two times I’ve been the air was clear, so I don’t know. Its magnificence may lie in that it is situated where the Nechako River meets the mighty Fraser River and there are some excellent sites of the rivers in easy access from town. We were only there for two days and I got out for a drive up the hill to the University to get some good sites of the lay out of the city and managed to get a few good photographs. You can see one of the mills in the distance. But look how clear the air is! Then I spent the afternoon down at Cottonwood Park and the Nechako where gorgeous walking trails follow the banks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving P.G we decided to take the Duffey Lake Road to Squamish, a far superior scenic drive that follows a small river, and past Seton Lake with great camping all along the way. The photographs that follow are taken along the Duffey and into Squamish then ending in Vancouver. We stopped and stayed a night in Vancouver to see our son and his band play at the yacht club to promote their new EP, then caught the B.C. Ferry home the next morning. Even the ferry home is like a mini cruise and seeing my little island rise up as we close in on Departure Bay is always a warm welcome. I love where I live!

Foothills near Lilloet B.C.

 

Lilloet B.C. on the Fraser River

 

Seton Lake

 

Last years land slide on the Duffey Road.

 

The old Chief Mountain in Squamish B.C.

 

Kite surfing in Squamish B.C.

 

 

Vancouver False Creek, Granville Island (which isn’t really an island) from the Granville Street bridge

 

 

Granville Island Vancouver, from the Granville Street bridge

 

English Bay from the Granville Street Bridge, Vancouver, B.C.

 

Ferry Home

Then there’s Hope

I left with Bob on the 12:30 Ferry from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay and driving through the lower mainland of Vancouver on Hwy 1 we made for Hope. One of the little but not so insignificant considerations of driving the Hwy 1 or Trans- Canada from Horseshoe Bay through the city is the absence of any, nil, zero, traffic lights all the way for 170 km. It’s a smooth long flow right on through Chilliwack, Abbotsford and on to Hope, well actually, to the opposite end of the country if you kept on going, the Trans-Can is one of the longest uninterrupted highways in the world.

Bob has a few days of work in Prince George and I’m taking the opportunity to go along for this mini tour. Again, fun for me, poor Bob has made this trek countless times over thirty-five years of working Pulp Mill Shut-Downs, saying he knows every stump and stone all along the way. I contemplated testing him. Naw, I’ll take his word.

Ok, so anyway back to Hope. This is the first and only stop over on the little leg of our journey on our way  to Prince George, the second largest city in B.C. in the centre of the Province, a good 7 1/2 hour drive from Hope. In his robust younger days Bob would do the drive from Vancouver Island to P. G. in one go, but really that’s just madness, which makes me question exactly how many stumps and stones would one could actually see driving like a dirt devil for twelve hours? (Total of 15 hours when you include waiting for the ferry and riding the ferry before even starting the drive!) Ferry travel- another post.

We’ve stopped in Hope on previous road trips for gas or a snack on the way to somewhere else and the first time years ago, staying a night in a motel just off the highway, left me somewhat uncomfortable in the place. I mean the massively tall fir-tree covered mountains are RIGHT THERE looming over you, or in the case of that motel, directly behind and above; which caused me to wonder if it came by the name of Hope from pioneer gold miners murmuring a prayer, I HOPE THIS MOUNTAIN DOESN’T FALL ON MY HEAD. Probably not, but that’s what I would (no, I do) say.  It’s obvious I don’t enjoy closed in surroundings like in the crevices and canyons of towering rock. Foothills, distant rocky mountain ranges, oceans, meadows, wide valleys, deserts and prairie are more my element.

So to be fair I actually only visited the town of Hope twice, last month on our way to Kimberley and now, because these times we went INTO the town. And it is pretty. And yes, the Looming presence is there, but in town its threat feels slightly benign instead, maybe spectacular. Impressive also is the Fraser River running through the town, one of the longest rivers in Canada, with humble beginnings in Northern B.C.’s Fraser Pass building and running down into Vancouver’s Delta and New Westminster region and into the Strait of Georgia on the Pacific.

We got a room at the Windsor right downtown for $100, our last stay in Hope was at the Skagit Motel down the street from the Windsor which we liked better, and went for a walk through the neighborhood before having dinner at Wallace, good restaurant by the way.

10,000 years previous this region was the home of the Sto:lo first nations until 1782 when, like all the other European contact tragedies, small pox wiped out over two-thirds of their populations within six weeks. Below is the Dream Totem. Life must have been quite glorious and richly abundant here for them along this big waterway.

Hope also holds the oldest church on its original foundation in British Columbia, the Christ Church consecrated in 1861. The cedar trees that surround the church are magnificently huge, in fact the downtown has kept many of the old growth occupants intact, flanking the pathways to houses or lining a bit of the street and through the small park in the town centre, like acknowledging them as part of the residential population, a rightly place in the neighborhood.

On a bit of ground to the side of the little church is a Labyrinth, which of course I had to walk, because I have never waked one before. I can appreciate the meditative aspects of this exercise but I’m not sure I talked to God though. Maybe next time.

Next morning we grabbed breakfast at the Blue Moose across the street and began the long drive to the middle of B.C.

 

 

David and Goliath

We got out on our first little sail of the summer the other day, the winds were light but steady and the sun had finally burned away most of the clouds. We didn’t venture far, just around Snake Island four miles out due to the light air. We were kept company by a couple of these big fellas waiting at anchor to get into Vancouver’s port across the Strait.

They are a bane to some of the residents here, hearing the rumbling as they let out their chain rode to drop heavy anchors, complaining of their noisy generators running during the night, and their sometimes bright lights, especially if they anchor particularly close to our island, but I’m fascinated by their  scale, the engineering of their structure, and the historical connection they carry.

Moving cargo by sea is ancient, the world’s economy has hinged on floating vessels up and down great river and ocean systems for millennia. I don’t want to comment necessarily on the cargo they now transport other than to say besides the many loads of sneakers, import cars, stuff for the Wal-Mart’s, or raw log exports – lets face it we buy all this stuff, no right to judge what is necessary goods; there is perhaps much more that is down right dangerous like the diluted  toxic Bitumen that will be coming through the pipeline from the Alberta tar sand’s channeled through B.C.’s mountain range and pristine wilderness for freighter export out of Vancouver’s busy harbour.  Odds are certain this big red ship from Majuro will have such cargo.

It’s the paradox of human ingenuity, we can create incredible feats of engineering that by the same token can harm or destroy. The double edge sword that’s hidden in our many revered works. The Pyramids or the great wall of China can inspire and we marvel and congratulate our innovations, but the lives of thousands of slaves that severely toiled and perished seem to escape us.

And while these ships are striking to see up close, their tenuous journey out to the open pacific before first threading through our narrow passages and skirting our active gulf islands causes some amount of disdain.   But what can we do? We are hypocrites all.