if a place will have us

skehl

In 1980, we bought our 8.5 acres on the north end of the Sechelt Peninsula and the next year we began to build our house. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere. When I’m away from home, this is the place I dream of. In another bed at night, I wake and try to orient myself by the windows of the room I have slept in since 1982. I feel out of place in other beds.

This peninsula and surroundings, from Howe Sound extending up Jervis Inlet, is shíshálh swiya, the original territory of the shíshálh Nation. There are times when the past seems very close. When we walked to Francis Point the other day after our (careful) errands, I saw what anyone ever sitting on the rocks there saw. Islands in the soft distance, waves, the dappled leaves of Erythronium  oregonum emerging out of the moss. Thirty years ago, an elderly man who’d grown up in this area took me for a walk nearby and showed me the remnants of rock fish traps and cedar trees scarred by bark removal, a cultural practice done carefully and well, and the tree’s huge size a testament to that. The people never left. I count some of them among my friends. I am grateful to live here. These days, as the world experiences the chaos and uncertainty of a pandemic, I am even more grateful. Apart from brief trips for groceries, last week’s followed by that walk, we’ve been home. We are surrounded by trees and sky and earth. I feel cradled by it somehow, if that doesn’t seem too sentimental.

As the news is filled by numbers of infections and deaths, of measures being taken to control COVID-19, I think of the importance of staying in place, if a place will have us. As the future increasingly seems troubled and uncertain, I am glad to see the old highway signs being replaced,  reminding us of everything this place is and has been. Knowing original names can lead us back in time as well as forward. We’re here, sure, but something older and deeper never went away. Daylighting those names feels perfectly timed to remind us exactly where we are in a way that takes another kind of understanding, beyond the real estate descriptions and tourist brochure enticements. When I pull of of my driveway and turn left, I know I am 6 kilometers from a place that has two names, one rooted in the history of a man named Thomas Egbert Earl, a WW1 veteran who settled on the cove in 1918, and one that reaches back, back, into ancient time.

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