Yesterday we were having breakfast on Galiano Island with our excellent hosts, Louise Decario and Brian Mitchell. We stayed with them in 2016 when we were guests of the Galiano Island Literary Festival and so it was lovely to join them again after my workshop at the Festival on Friday. This is their view. Brian is a painter and he said he has made many works with the title, “The View From Here 1”, “The View From Here 2”, etc. Yup. I get that.
My husband says sometimes that I need to rein in my nostalgia, as though it was an unruly horse in need of training. But when you ride the ferries from one island to another, there is always the shadow of the ferry you took as a girl to these islands, in childhood with your family to Salt Spring for camping on St. Mary’s Lake, and later, as a young woman, to visit friends who were living in rustic cabins and trying to learn how to farm. Those farms are still there and the ferries, oh yes. I know that there are people who think we need bridges to link the islands but my response is always what it is when the same thing is said about access to the peninsula I live on, also serviced by ferries: “Where did you think you were coming to?”
Yesterday, in order to return to Tsawwassen from Galiano Island, we had to travel to Mayne Island first of all, and then wait for smaller ferries bringing passengers from Saturna Island and another, maybe Pender? Or Salt Spring? You could smoke rising from distant chimneys and yes, some sheep in fields, and cliffs with arbutus clinging to their edges.
We do get glimpses of that old coast and sometimes in the most unexpected places. On Thursday, enroute to Galiano Island, we spent the night in Steveston. We were told that snow geese were on the marsh at Garry Point so we drove out there to see. I only had my tablet camera and so of course everything is blurry but groups kept rising up, calling loudly, and it was wonderful. I remember driving out to this area 30 years ago to see fields white with foraging geese who’d arrived from Wrangell or Siberia.
We walked by Scotch Pond for another old coast moment, a group of fish boats waiting out the cold. And there were echoes of both the cannery that was once here and the sheds where the Atagi family had their famous boatworks, the sound of red-winged blackbirds in the reeds.
And this morning? I’m drinking a cup of Galiano Coffee Roasting Company’s delicious Raven Dark (a gift from the Festival, put into our swag bags moments after the beans had been roasted on Friday) and looking out on Fairfield Road. This was the neighbourhood I lived in as a child, my old school just across the road, and the cemetery where my mother used to send us to ride our bikes in the safety of its green lanes under the most beautiful trees. We’re going there later, for a walk. I know we’ll go to Eberts Street to look at our old house, the park where we used to play soft ball in the falling light on summer evenings, near the Dallas Road waterfront where we gathered bark on weekends for the woodheater in our kitchen. Oh, the scent of salt-infused Douglas fir bark, burning hot on a winter day. And the sound of gulls.
So this is me, trying to rein in that unruly nostalgia. Like a headstrong horse, it wants to run, it wants to take the bit in its mouth and race along the old streets, plunging into water, listening, always listening, sniffing the wind and the wood smoke, and quite honestly I’m at a loss as to what to do about it…