Mother/Daughter

My girls, Beacon Hill Park, Victoria B.C.

I call Victoria B.C my soul city even though I had only lived there a mere five years, during my mid twenties; a struggling single parent with a four year old daughter. Even though it was during the more difficult time in my life, young, directionless, and floundering in a relationship with a rock guitarist.

Yet still. I think it is where I grew. And though the growth had its hardships, and in truth don’t the two go hand in hand, these times and places where growth happens always leave an indelible mark. For better or worse.

I was in fact quite happy in those five Victoria years despite the obvious chaos and confusion I had going on then. Ok – my entire 20’s decade was chaos and confusion- but, I grew up. A bit.

Within that five year period while there I worked at a five star Bed and Breakfast as the breakfast chef, which I absolutely loved, then later left the B&B to train and work as a Care Aid. The money was union money and benefits, so it was a strategic employment choice.

Even so, it was when my daughter and I were evicted from our James Bay apartment that eventually determined our move back up island to affordable Nanaimo.

Reason for eviction being the building we were living in was unfortunately slated for demolition. Being built in its place a luxury adult oriented condo high rise. Thus all of us were given notice. And leaving Victoria, reason being that I couldn’t afford to rent a house, and to find an apartment that allowed children was nearly impossible to come by at the time. I looked hard, searching through the listings in the Times-Colonist in every effort to remain in Victoria. The thought of leaving was, I didn’t want to think about leaving. But, time was running out and nothing was coming up.

Except for a two bedroom house my sister-in-law’s parents had coming available in Nanaimo just as my daughter and I would be exiting the Victoria apartment.

But that last Victoria residence, our apartment, was where our fondest memories are kept. It was full of single parents and low income families. We were happy there, neighbours helping each other with child care, and bonding together as a tight community. It was across the street from Beacon Hill Park. My daughter and I could walk out our door, cross the street, and have all of Beacon Hill Park and that great stretch of waterfront at our fingertips. Or we could take a walk down streets lined with great old trees and character homes and be downtown in the heart of the harbour in ten minutes. My daughter’s school was a three minute walk away.

And although I have lived in Nanaimo for most of my adult life, from the age of eighteen, whenever I go to Victoria  – it’s only a one and half hour drive away- I feel as if I’m being embraced by the dearest of an old favourite aunt. It feels like I’m coming home.

This feeling is the same for my daughter.

Recently she visited from her home in Kimberley, located in the Rockies of B.C., with her one and half year old daughter, my first grand baby. A visit to Victoria is on the list of things she wants to do.

Spending the day walking through the park, my baby with her baby, seeing these two together, I could see my daughter once again as the little girl she was with me, remembering our life here, my own youth, my young daughter at my side where together we once had spent so much time, climbing the rocky shoreline over looking the ocean and out towards Port Angeles in the United States.

A little melancholic, our past Victoria life flickered briefly before me as I watched my daughter with her daughter, for those few years when it was just she and I.

 

A Bird in Hand

A small bird slammed hard into my big kitchen window yesterday, landing on its back in the flowerpot below, wings splayed, dazed. I went to it and scooped it gently into my hands and sat on the porch steps. Its eyes were open but the left one was squinting. Must’ve hit on that side. Cradling it in my cupped hand I let it rest, feeling the ball of so much heat radiating from its little body into my palm. I felt a kindred. It closed its eyes and began to doze off.

Then I thought of concussions and that sleep can be fatal, so I began to gently move the bird to roust it, opening its eyes again. We sat on the porch for twenty minutes or so then I thought this may take a while, and decided to place the bird in a basket on my patio table. It would be safe, and would have to take the chance  that though it may sleep, it will be all right.

I watched it through the window as I worked inside. It stayed on the cushion I had put in the basket for another hour. I’d go out to check and it would open its eyes, but not move. Another hour passed and I looked, it had moved to perch on the edge of the cushion, but I noticed it was a little wobbly. Not wanting to disturb it I watched closer through a pair of compact binoculars from the kitchen window. Although it was standing, it was still dozing off, dipping its head down.

Eventually I went out and quietly sat in the chair beside the patio table and observed the little bird, still perched, for several minutes. Its eyes were open now but made no attempt to move. I began to think maybe this little bird will never fully recover, that there may be brain damage. Forget how to fly, how to find food.

I went back in to get my sketch book, thought it’s not often one has a live bird this close and still, and sat by the bird again. It was looking more alert now. I began to draw, just getting its initial shape down before it suddenly flickered away off and up into the nearby bushes.

Leaving me fascinated by that little creatures resiliency after a hard blow. A human would not have fared so well I think.  Leaving me wishing the bird well.

I smiled. I should have brought my sketchbook out sooner.

 

Summer Time and the Living is Busy- and Fun

The crashing aftermath of an empty, quiet house since our July company departed resonates with a small shush. Bob and I reclaim our space like 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 last twenty days. Ten days with my brother-in-law Dan, then a three day turn around 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, the splat 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. (wait it has to be a bald eagle I think…)

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  the inlet or driving back through Victoria and over the Malahat. Google guided us around Mount Finlayson on its thin roads with hairpin turns until at last depositing us down into Goldstream Provincial Park . Close enough.

We were good hosts and ambassadors to our guests and had a ton of fun being tourists ourselves in our own backyard.  Bob and I promising ourselves  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 of the top of Mt Washington riding the ski lift.

 

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 ~

 

Back home

I’ve been home for two weeks now after spending the month of May in Kimberley visiting my daughter while Bob was working in the area, and I’ve been so busy I haven’t put time aside to post. Upon our return we were greeted with a lawn of very tall grass, and because it was already the end of May we had to get busy buying seeds and vegetable starts and flowers, getting the vegetable gardens planted, putting flower baskets together, mowing and weeding.

We did have a little parcel we discovered in our hedge while weeding, a nest of twelve quail eggs. The mother must’ve been out feeding when we saw the pale and brown speckled eggs nestled in the tall grass. When I checked them the next day I thought they were gone, that a raccoon had gotten to them, but then I looked again I could then notice the excellent camouflage of the male parent spread out over the nest.

I also needed to get up to see my Mom for some serious breakout time; I take her out about three times a week, taking her for lunch, drives, and walks down at the beach front. Although my sister got her out on the weekends while I was away, mom was getting a bit of cabin fever being cloistered during the weeks.

Yesterday Bob and I worked hard in pulling up a massive bamboo type ground cover that had gotten away on us and was encroaching on the veg garden area, and today- I’m beat! Coupled with staying up too late last night to try to watch Saturday Night Live and then waking at 6 this morning, I can never sleep in no matter how late I go to bed! I feel like a wet rag today~

So after doing a bit of raking I’ve surrendered to the remainder of the day to give it a rest. Find a comfy spot in the sun maybe and read. I do need a trip to the library, having finished Paradise by Toni Morrison while in Kimberley, I’ll see what I can re-read from my own library ~

Tanker

A tanker sits at anchor in front  of Gabriola Island on a March morning. Some don’t appreciate them here, sometimes there have been several waiting here to get into Vancouver. I don’t mind them. It adds some interest to the sea scape. We can hear and even feel them drop their anchors in the channel. There will be this deep rumbling / scrapping sound and sometimes a little boom when it hits the sea bed.

Bob though is a bit sensitive to the sound of their generators running, a low hum, especially at night.

Unfortunately I don’t hear it – or it doesn’t disturb me enough.

“Can’t you hear that? What you mean you can’t hear that? !”

“No. Can’t.”

 

Lyle and John

Photo courtesy of the web

I crossed the water to see these guys a few nights ago at the theatre downtown, a great show. I adore Lyle, his vocal styling , his masterful writing and guitar prowess, and to be frank it was he that I was really excited about. I didn’t know a lot about John Hiatt, I knew some of his work, watched some You Tube videos, but all that changed with seeing him in live performance. He was Amazing. IS amazing. A harmonious contrast to Lyle and equally powerful.

Coupled with their (really funny! ) dry wit bantering it was an intimate, warm welcoming night with two of the best music masters,  made us feel we were just sitting with two guys singing and playing guitar in the living room.

All along the waterfront

I craved some sun so I went to town. My island neighborhood is so heavily treed that much of the road is shady this time of year. There are spots to sit in the sun but not so much for a long walk in the sun. For that I needed to go across the water to town where the entire waterfront bathes in light. And fortunately there is a splendid walkway that hugs the shoreline for about 2 miles. All totaled I clocked my 10,000 steps easily, and a sufficient dose of good ultra violet therapy. Skin damage be damned.

When I look at this view of my little island and Newcastle Park from town I know I must live in one of the best little corners of Canada by far.

In truth it has taken me some time to have real affection for my town even though I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else in my 59 years; went to college here, had my daughter here, met and married my husband here, built a home.

But there is nothing not to love about Nanaimo, although it took years of desperate struggle, it has blossomed over the years and it’s harbor front is its winning card hands down. It’s a bit urban, some quaintness, great concerts, and celebrations, and what city can boast an 800 acre island park right in its harbor accessible only by boat?

Oh, a note about the Photo of the pirate at the top. That is our late, great (hmmm.) pirate Mayor Frank Ney. Black Frank, immortalized in bronze. He held the office of Mayor for 21 years and was also a developer. He was the guy to subdivide my little island, shown behind him, and responsible, among other very important things, of naming many of the city’s streets; Dingle Bingle hill, Twiggly-wiggly Road, Buttertubs, and Berger-Op-Zoom. My island didn’t escape unique naming, we received his Piratey legacy with Captain Kids Terrace, Pirates Lane, Treasure Trail, Captain Morgans. It’s said he’d delegate the business of street naming to his young children. He had eleven, so.

Colorful man our Frank.

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