It Takes a Village

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Because I live on a rock that I share with about 300 others, you get to know its people. Many I’ve known for over 20 years, others more recent. For me this is the longest duration in one community in my entire life – in California we moved several times: Garden Grove, Tustin, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, and this continued when we relocated to Vancouver Island.

Landing here on this tiny Gulf Island I remember saying to my new husband (that would be Bob) that I have no intention of leaving. Of course this was after experiencing the grunting work of loading cars and boats with my things and barging across the waters to off load, then reload onto a truck to the final destination of Bobs house. Then off load. I ain’t doing that again, I think is what I mumbled under my breath. Little did it sink in then that this in fact would be a constant way of life. Hauling things. But I’m good with it now.

So this is home and I am surrounded by people who know me. They know my children. Our story.

And I know some of theirs, when someone gets married, when there is a new baby, when someone falls on hard luck, the fundraiser events. But because I’ve been working so much out of the home for many years these events have been more on the periphery of my scope. Acknowledgement, appreciation, yes – but also a little taken for granted.

Until now. Living in this community the more I am awakened to the profundity of it, the depths it reaches into what it means to know your neighbour, to be a part of this tiny part of humanity.

She was a gardener, taking care of others’ plants and flowers, she and her partner working together on landscaping jobs for about 15 years here and she passed away. She was in her 50’s and died of Lung Cancer a few days ago. And when I mentioned this one evening to a friend how many neighbours have passed my friend said, It’s our age. She said, there were three people in my condo on my floor that had died within a few years of each other.

I thought about what she said, but it wasn’t the same.

It was then that I realized what it is I am a part of here.  At that moment I came to fully understand the connectedness that resides here, what it means to be a supportive community, to BE IN a community. I realized how far on the sidelines I have dwelled.

It was an epiphany.

Because when I see Anne I can remember her husband, and see Liz and remember her husband, and see Pat and remember her husband, and see Veronica and remember her husband,  and see Keith and remember his wife, and see Shannon and remember her daughter, and when I see Dan I can remember his partner. And because I can see my neighbours navigating catastrophic life changes and doing the wrenching work of carrying on, of salving wounds. Of finding a new normal everyday.

I have newfound respect and even a reverence that wasn’t so present before as a resident here. Of what Home means, and Connection.

 

 

 

 

Freeze up

Protection ice floe

This is rather a rare occurrence for us west coasters to have our bay iced over for nearly 3 days, but there have been tales told that in the far past people have ice skated out to this little island.

The above photo is the third day as it’s finally breaking up. Bob and I have a welded aluminum boat which means it can take pushing through the ice, and we did. (This also scraps clean the bottom of our boat brilliantly too.) We went out to where our sailboat is moored and did a few circles around her to free her up and then we went all around the rest of the bay to break ice for those that are living aboard their boats and would have difficulty getting to shore with their row boats.

Off to a good start since this happened on January 1st  making it our first good deed for 2016!

Our sailboat in the icy bay 2016

gulls standing on ice

Days gone by

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To briefly catch up, I have been busy with my weekly Spanish class which has proven to be a fun and supportive gathering of neighbours as we learn to grasp the language through role play and songs, and I’ve been sitting in on her small intermediate class held later on the same day which helps me in listening comprehension, lots of laughs too- Wednesdays are mi dia de Espanol! Last class is tomorrow.

I was called back to work for two weeks (I opted to remain on the casual list) where it was good to be around my co-workers again, although my reason for being there was on a tragic note, filling in for a good friend and colleague who had lost her 21 year old nephew by suicide. He was like a son to her. Then attending the celebration of life, so many came in support, heart wrenching.

I cleaned out the shed (that was a job, take my word) and on a gorgeous crisp/clear Saturday did a backyard clean up and burn- I love a good bonfire. Primal.

The studio space I am planning is beginning to take form and look forward to start working in the new year.

I’ve also been doing some Holiday baking, something I haven’t had much time for over the last few years, and my moms 90th is next weekend so there is the organizing taking place at the moment. And as for my mom, my visits are steady throughout the week taking her out for walks on the boardwalk on the beach when the weather suits, for appointments,  just being with her.

The featured image at the top of my post is my Garden Angel, I felt she encompasses this post in a way; the approaching Soltice, the grace I feel she expresses when I think of my friends nephew, and my mom’s common response of “Bless your heart” to us or anyway who does a kindness for her.

Found her many years ago in a second hand store and paid $7.00. She has been watching over my growing things ever since.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hola! Ole!

Week two of my island neighbourhood Spanish class and it went well! She covered numbers and we did some merchant/shopper roll playing  and then the class ended on a musical note; two students brought a Spanish translated rendition of “Row, Row, Row your boat”. Next week they said we’ll sing it in the round. Uh huh, should be smooth! Anyway such fun to get together with my neighbors and learn something as a group. I love my little community, so fortunate to be in an enclave such as this. Oh and according to Duolingo I now possess 15% fluency in Spanish, whoo hoo!

Hablo Español- well, my reoccurring attempt to

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I’m no stranger to the Spanish language, and not that I have any proficiency what so ever, but being born in California the school curriculum included Spanish, not sure if it still does as I’m talking some 45 years ago. My breath got caught just there.

I had it in junior high grades 7, 8 and as an elective in my junior year grade 9 at Huntington High, then my family moved to Canada where French was the dominant second language and was mandatory up to grade 10. I rather regret not taking advantage of that new language, but rather than jump in I stayed with what was familiar and was allowed to take Spanish by correspondence instead, which didn’t come to much since I had no one to practice with. When I got to grade 11 I took it as an elective. A side note about my Spanish teacher for that class, Mr. Gallagher, the first day of class he burst into the room holding a guitar, threw himself onto an empty desk and belted out La Cucaracha. He was an engaging teacher far and few between.

Later in life my husband and I traveled to Mexico a few times, one trip lasting three months backpacking and I took some Spanish tutoring, until our rented bikes were stolen one night and had to re pay the bike shop thus blowing my tutoring budget.

I took more classes in my town upon returning from that trip to keep the language alive. And again years later when I was employed at the University I recently retired from; one of our perks was exemption from tuition, so I had enrolled in a class that was compatible with my work schedule. One year.

One whole year, and I did o.k. but I struggled with exams and the finals. So obviously not quit getting it and I’m dismayed by this since this language and I go way (way) back.

So now a neighbor on my little island, who is originally from Colombia, has decided to hold  Spanish classes at our community hall each Wednesday morning. It is beginner level and I am attending, along with 20 of my neighbors, and although I know a bit more to take her intermediate class she plans on following up with,  rather than wait for that class I think I really need to begin the very basics again. I have  3 people in close proximity  that I can practice with too, I want to get this, I want to speak another language and by gum I plan to master it!

Anyone else out there having second language learning issue and successes? Did you have to persevere for years to break ground?  How did you finally break through the barrier?

A long goodbye

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One day in the final week before my retirement from my position at the University I took a stroll over to the Fine Arts building on the campus.

It’s been a long time since I visited this department even though it’s a short jaunt up the hill from the culinary department where I work. And it was a bit sentimental because I and this institution have a deeply personal history and I felt like I needed to revisit my “roots” and say goodbye.

My relationship to this campus isn’t only for the duration of my employment here of the last 7 years, but all the way back to 1976 when it was a college. This is where at 18 I began my Fine Arts degree, right here.

I opened the big glass door and stood in the foyer and memories came flooding back. The couch over there against the wall where we took breaks from our painting to have a smoke and talk with the instructor. The studios forested with easels, the smell of acrylics and oils, graphite and charcoal. My fingers stained with whatever medium I had been working with. I walked over to where the printing studio was but it no longer held the big press I had used for Lithographs and the silk screen frames were no longer there, it was now full of what looked like set design maquettes. I entered the vacant sculpture studio and saw that it hasn’t changed at all, the pleasant memory of working with the Lost Wax Method where I made a bronze cast of a bear in a cave, that I still have, and the unpleasant memory of working with resins. Nothing good came from that. I walked across the hall and peered in through the glass window in the door at the ceramics studio full of engaged students talking, laughing or quietly focused on the wheel. It looked just as I had left it. To add, this is where my mom when in her 50’s taught pottery in the evenings to Community Ed students.

It’s a heady place this campus. It witnessed many of my life changes and growth; a pivotal place. Every decade of my adult life is attached to this place. 

This is where in my first year I moved out of my parents home and together with my boyfriend of 3 years also a fellow art student, and another art student got our first apartment. The second year my boyfriend went on a student exchange to Florida and left me on my own. His sister and a two of our friends, also students, shared a large house to finish out the second year. When my boyfriend came back for a visit we agreed to marry the following year. My mom and I window shopped for wedding dresses, but it had been a long year apart, and consequently I branched out socially; when he returned my feelings had changed and I broke up with him.

I had during that second year become involved in a small theatre group during my second year headed by an English Professor who wrote satirical musicals and this campus theatre is where I performed and sang in those plays publicly in my first ever stage appearance. I also fell in love with the piano player. Our little theatre group segued into a working band of 10 musicians and we played gigs that consisted of all original songs all over town developing a sizable following. Both the piano player, our lead singer, as well as our slide guitarist have continued on in very successful musical careers.

This campus is where we held our practice sessions, and when our drummer left for the Caribbean to work for Club Med another drummer came to try out and stayed. Turned out I would spend 5 years with this man and have a daughter. To add, a colleague I recently shared my office space with for the last seven years had years ago bought the house he had built in 1975, before he  joined our band and when he was married. She bought it from his ex-wife. She and I discovered this when conversing over coffee break one day.

Of course woven through those happy events are some bitter lessons, some bad decisions, and maybe even a regret or two, but the truth of the matter is they were deep and in many ways profoundly enriching. So were the good times. Very much so.

This campus saw me return again in my 30’s to enroll to become a Baker, during which time my brother was dying from bowel cancer, and I returned again in my 40’s to become a chef. Then to return again in my 50’s as an employee working as a chef assistant.

Every decade of my adult life is attached to this place.

And now here I am. Was and was.

So now it must certainly be adieu mustn’t it? I really hesitate to be steadfast in anything final. Lets just say I will not be surprised if for some reason I find my footsteps once again carrying me back to embark on yet another enterprise in my 60th decade. But for now I give thanks and honor the memories, and for many ways in being a place of life experience and learning for me.