Another year has come and gone; another year in the lives of a couple of west coast island dwellers…
March brought the annual Words on the Water writer’s festival to our nearest town. This is the annual cultural event that I attend each year along with my friend T. and a host of other keen book enthusiasts.
After all the early spring-time tree-pruning, seed-starting and income-tax-return stuff, I took off to spend a couple of sunshine filled weeks with good friends in my favourite Mexican seaside village.
Summer was spent working in the garden and at my part time housekeeping job at the kayakers’ B&B. The garden was good, and so was the job. C. came and went, as usual during the summer season, between his guiding work and home.
One of the highlights of the summer was a long weekend voyage aboard our old boat up nearby Toba Inlet.
Later, and home alone, I had a very close encounter with a large, adult cougar. Opening the back door one mid-summer evening, I stepped out onto the porch just as the big tawny cat strolled past. He stood less than eight feet away at the bottom of the stairs, pausing to look up at me. My hair stood on end as I stepped back inside, closing the door behind me. The cougar met my gaze and for a few moments we looked deep into one another’s eyes through the window pane. Then he casually loped off across the yard, to be swallowed up by the dark forest. I was left, quivering a bit, trying to take in what I had just been fortunate enough to see.
Several visitors came and went over the course of the year including my mother who popped in from Mexico to spend a week with us in May.
My friend H. and her partner D. came all the way from England for a visit that lasted less than 24 hours. I nearly killed D. when I took my guests for a walk in the woods the morning after their arrival. All was well until I suggested a route that led across a fallen nurse tree, over a pretty stream. I should have known better. D., not accustomed to west coast, bush-whacking walks, was wearing smooth-soled street shoes, and, as it turns out, has balance issues.
D. took one step onto the sloping old nurse tree, and skidded off into space. The poor fellow took a header into the sword ferns beneath the tree “bridge”, landing on his shoulder and back, with a sickening thud. He had the wind knocked out of him and was badly shaken. As was I, clambering down off the log to see if first aid was required, or whether I should start running to the house to call the Coast Guard for a medical evacuation.
D. survived his fall. My English friends declined my offer of a trip to the hospital, but after a restorative cup of tea, decided to return to town a few hours earlier than originally planned. Note to self: In future, stick to guest-appropriate routes. Note to guests: Bring, and wear bush-appropriate footwear.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED IN 2017?
At the end of August our old blue boat found a new home. C. had come across an ad on the local harbour authority’s bulletin board. Someone wanted a boat that sounded a lot like our ex-fishing vessel, the Ashley-Em.
After several weeks of rather disjointed communications, a wiry, middle-aged, Fraser River fisherman showed up at our dock aboard a skookum, aluminum gillnetter. After some wheeling and dealing he left, to catch the tide out of here with the Ashley-Em tied alongside, running in tandem all the way down to the historic fishing community of Steveston near the mouth of the Fraser River.
There the old Ashley-Em has been re-fitted with a gillnet drum and net, to finish off her days the way she began, as a commercial fishing vessel. We were delighted! Off went a boatload of worrisome work and future headaches. As I watched her go, heading south on that late August afternoon, with a light westerly kicking up at her heels, I also watched a boatload of wonderful memories disappear around the corner.
Down one old dog, and one old boat, we still had a burgeoning garden, a pair of old chickens and a couple of geriatric cats to tie us down.
So, when our work seasons were finished at the end of the summer, we did not plan any warm winter getaways. Instead we hoped for mild weather to see us through the rest of the year and took a couple of off island sojourns to get together with family and friends. September and October; harvest time, fall fairs and an impromptu concert, lovely meals shared with family and old friends, country walks in golden autumn sunshine.
C. went off hunting in November, as usual. I stayed home to carry on the harvest and to mind the fort. Nothing out of the ordinary. Writing this I realize what creatures of habit we have become. One could set a watch, and the calendar, by our routine, one day after another, one year after another. Suddenly you wake up and realize that decades have passed, a lifetime even, and here we are still in the same place, doing the same things we’ve always done. Getting by, making do, fixing the broken things, living our lives; until one day life jumps up and bites you in the ass!
That’s exactly what happened when my loved one experienced a serious medical crisis and ended up in the Intensive Care Unit ten days before Christmas. Luckily, the sea was calm, the road clear of snow and fallen trees on the day we had to travel so quickly to the Emergency Department of the brand new hospital in town.
I stayed with C. in the ICU the first couple of nights while the top notch medical team looked after C., figured out what was wrong, took steps to make him better. When I returned home for a couple of days to feed the animals and recover my equilibrium, C.’s daughters stepped up to the plate; kept C. company, brought him good things to eat. A week later we made our way home, feeling slightly shattered, but on the road to recovery.
Collectively our family decided to ignore the usual Christmas chaos keeping our own celebration extremely simple. At home for a few days in between the hospital and Christmas, we skipped the make-work project of a tree. A bunch of greenery tied up with ribbon and hung on the front door did the trick instead.
Rustling around in my pantry to find a few presents, I came across the last of the cherry tomatoes from autumn’s garden. Cooking the tiny red, yellow, and green fruits with sugar, slices of fresh ginger and lemon transformed them into a tasty tomato “jam”; a colourful addition to a cheese platter served with some crackers and a nice glass of wine. A pretty ribbon around the jar and my Christmas shopping was done!
We travelled off island on Christmas Eve for a couple of days to be with our daughters. On Christmas day we gathered together to share a traditional holiday meal and to walk gently in freshly fallen snow.
Home again on the island on the very last day of 2017, T. and H. dropped in for tea on their way past while D. and G. arrived out of the blue aboard their pretty, antique motor boat. They stayed to help us ring in the New Year.
And so, that is how we arrived at the beginning of this year, 2018, the Year of the Dog. This will mark my 26th year on the island, my 60th on this beautiful green and blue planet. For now we are not planning any more dogs, but we have been scanning the listings for just the right boat to take the place of our old one. With a little luck, the future will bring us just the right vessel to carry on exploring this wet west coast for many more years to come.
Thank you for reading my blog and Happy New Year to you and your family!