Big City

Last week when I woke and pulled back the drapes in the living room a pair of panted legs with heavy dark boots hung before me. A bridge of metal tubing crisscrossed the window.

Oh yeah, I’m not at my house. I’m in Vancouver, staying at my friends downtown condo while she’s staying in my house on Vancouver Island, we agreed on a four-day swap.

This arrangement served us both perfectly, I was wanting some time in the city before the summer ended for a few reasons. First Claude Monet was showing at the Vancouver Art Gallery, second I have never been to UBC’c Museum of Anthropology, and third I just wanted to soak up some big city buzz.

My friend in turn got a reprieve from her, five months and counting, green sheathed, scaffolded, plywood strewn, beeping work trucks, strange mens legs dangling outside the front window, exterior condo refit in exchange for peace and quiet, a lot of trees, and the ocean.

I love the energy and bustle of cities. The visuals, even the noise. I wanted grit, chaos, to see people moving in all directions, to see weird people, smells, colour, texture and even the anonymity of walking down a busy crowded street and no one knowing who I am. There is for me a kind of perverse liberation to be alone in a crowd. To be unnoticed.

I can fill up, and then return to my tranquil island home where everybody has known me for thirty years. Best of both worlds.

I can certainly do day trips to Vancouver, the Departure Ferry is only a short city transit bus ride away from me. Walking onto the ferry for $16, get off at Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver and jump right onto their express city transit bus that, forty and so minutes later, deposits me right downtown on W. Georgia. But all in there and back alone eats up a solid four hours of my day in traveling.

So to have several days to meander that beautiful city and without expensive hotel costs? Perfect. Plus I had enough time to get an evening in with my stepson and his wife.

Also Bob is away for work. I could also add that this friend I have swapped with is in fact Bobs ex. Yes, she is the mother of my step son whom I’ve had the pleasure raising from the age of ten. When Bob was telling his co workers that his wife and his ex have swapped houses there was some laughter, some ‘Whaaaa?’ and some head shaking of disbelief.  Bob was pleased with their reaction. We just all get along, long story short.

The four days went exactly as I had planned and if you care to check back my following posts will cover my  time with Monet, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), city walks, and will answer the pressing query -what the frick is a Catfe  ~

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 finally growing in my garden, another vegetable I’ve tried several times but without success. By the way, 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, like kales, and chards and brussels, 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 have they nibbled them! My three rows of potatoes this year 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 to deer 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 around my house, being surrounded by the sea, 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 considering 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 my brother-in-law Dan then a three day turn over before my step daughter Crystal and her cousin Melanie arrived for ten days. We packed on the kilometres showing all of them our beautiful west coast island home.

We covered as much as we could cram in to make their trip memorable, driving out to Long Beach on the Pacific Rim, walking across the Kinsol Trestle,in Shawnigan, Sail boating on our little Auklet, backyard BBQ’s. We did Alpine walks in Paradise Meadows at Mount Washington along with a ride up that mountain on the ski lift. We swam in the Nanaimo river, took in the Sand Sculptures in Parksville, and the weekend blast of our cities Bathtub Race.We took them on the tiny Mill Bay ferry over to Buchart’s Garden in Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula and a tour 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 -Victoria is known for its flowers-was in fact the faecal bombing of a passing seagull. Oh yes, landing square on top of my head. Feel the seeping into the hair if you will. In all my years living along the ocean with  seagulls wheeling overhead have I ever had such a magnificent soaking. This prompted an immediate return to our motel, driving with all windows down because the high piercing reek of rotten fish permeating 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 there was the exhilarating 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 or driving back through Victoria and up the Malahat, which took us through hairpin roads and down into Goldstream Provincial Park .

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 to walk its entirety.

 

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 at Parksville.

 

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

 

Warrants two photo 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 with Crystal and Melanie ~

 

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 headed 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 and beyond is the absence of any, nil, zero, traffic lights all the way for 170 km. It’s a smooth long flow right on through to Chilliwack, Abbotsford and on to Hope. 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 the 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 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 British Columbia and 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 could one 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.

Hope, the location where Rambo: First Blood was filmed. Hope with its massive fir-tree covered mountains RIGHT THERE looming over you, which caused me to wonder if the town 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 dwelling too long in close surroundings like the crevices and canyons of towering rock. Foothills, distant rocky mountain ranges, oceans, meadows, wide valleys, deserts and prairie are more my element. But yes, the looming mountain presence of Hope is pervasive, but in the town its threat feels slightly benign, maybe even 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, on another previous overnight stay in Hope we stayed at the Skagit Motel down the street from the Windsor, which we liked better. But the Windsor is just fine. We went for a walk through the neighbourhood before having dinner at Wallace, good restaurant by the way.

10,000 years ago this region was the home of the Sto:lo first nations until 1782 when, like so many(maybe all) European contact tragedies, small pox wiped out over two-thirds of their populations within six weeks. Below is the Dream Totem. Life had to have been quite glorious and richly abundant here for the Sto:lo along this big waterway before European contact. Way to go white guy.

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; acknowledging them as part of the residential population, a rightly place in the neighbourhood.

On a bit of ground to the side of the little church is a Labyrinth, which of course I had to walk.

Next morning we grabbed breakfast at the Blue Moose across the street from the Windsor and began the long drive to Prince George.