This past month I immersed myself in nature. I studied the work of famous artists. I fostered friendships old and new. I explored Canadian history.
Since retiring from teaching my husband and I have made annual fall trips to places like Iceland, Germany, Croatia, Austria, Utah, Florida, Chicago, and New York. This year because of the pandemic, we thought it would be easiest and safest to stay in Canada. So, we decided to drive to British Columbia and spend October there.
We walked for many miles along the shore of the Pacific listening to the pounding surf and admiring the way the waves had turned the smooth sand, uprooted trees, and fragile shells into works of art. We soaked in the beauty of shadowy old-growth forests, mist-shrouded mountains, and millions of leaves aflame with autumn color. We watched the antics of seals in Victoria Harbor, listened to a bellowing choir of sea lions in Cowichan Bay, and delighted in the eating techniques of a sea otter having her breakfast by the dock in Tofino.
We visited the childhood home of Emily Carr, one of Canada’s most renowned artists known for her ability to ‘make trees dance’ in landscape paintings of the pacific northwest.
We explored a gallery where the genius of Robert Bateman was displayed in his realistic renditions of owls, cardinals, eagles, puffins, and egrets. “The world would be a better place if everyone was a bird watcher,” Bateman once said.
In the rotunda of the British Columbia Legislature, we saw a giant wooden canoe designed and carved by Steven L. Point the first Indigenous Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. The canoe is called Shxwtitosel which in the Halq’eméylem language means a safe place to cross the river. It represents the idea of building bridges between people.
In New Westminster, I visited an old friend from my high school days in Steinbach. We shared memories of the past and found we still enjoyed many of the same interests when it came to books, music, and art.
Near Surrey, I met a second cousin for the first time. She is an amateur historian and provided me with all kinds of help via e-mail when I was writing my novel Lost on the Prairie inspired by my grandfather’s life. It was a privilege to chat with her about our family’s interesting history.
In Tofino, I had lunch with a former colleague. We taught together in the 1970s and 80s at Elmdale School in Steinbach. We had a great time bringing each other up to date on the paths our respective lives have taken.
We stayed with my brother and his husband in Victoria. They moved there a year ago and were anxious to introduce us to all the things they have discovered about their new home.
From a plaque on the Victoria harbor, I learned for the first time about Canadian adventurer Jeanne Socrates who twice completed a solo sail around the world at ages 70 and 77 making her the first woman and oldest person to accomplish that feat.
In Kinsol I walked across one of the highest free-standing timber trestle bridges in the world. Built in the 1920s, it is a historic reminder of the glory days of mining and lumbering in the west.
My trip to British Columbia reaffirmed that Canada is an amazing country. There is so much to see and do and learn right here. I want to remember that even when borders re-open and higher vaccination rates make international travel safer. Exploring my own country should remain a priority.
Beauty on the Beach
Tree Monsters and Trestles
I Love A Walking Holiday