They began walking to the pub at the very edge of the inlet on Saturday afternoons. A pint of beer, a glass of wine, a table by the window. Sometimes whales swam past. A humpback heading out to Agamemnon Channel or a pod of orcas chasing herring into Sechelt Inlet. Once Tessa and Marsh sat on the covered deck even though it was January, wearing mittens as they sipped their drinks, and watched orcas rush up to the tiny rocky island near the eastern shore and they realized the animals were dragging a seal down to tear apart in the water. That time, Marsh surprised Tessa by reciting a passage of poetry:
…how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood.
Marsh, what is that? — It’s Auden, from ‘Musee des Beaux Arts’. I’ve always loved it for the way it tells us how things happen, really miraculous things, and hardly anyone notices. Like now. We just happened to look in the right direction to see whales throw themselves against rocks to capture a seal. And look around. We’re the only ones who did. When she looked, she saw one couple arguing, two twenty-somethings typing on their phones with their thumbs, and a group of guys by the pool table, laughing.
After an hour or so of watching, they’d order supper.
The tacos were really good—steelhead grilled and strewn with capers and crispy wonton; porkbelly with cabbage and chili pineapple salsa. There was thick chowder. Burgers you couldn’t eat without some of it falling down the front of your shirt. A musician from down the Coast played on those afternoons, into the evenings, and it was sweet to sit near the fire, listening to him sing old favourites and some of his own songs too. They learned to recognize the boats in the inlet, the ones used by people living off the grid in East Easthope, the prawn boats, the ones used by the people who owned islands or lodges, the crew boats, the fishing charters.
And a tug would pass, hauling a barge of building materials, machines, tarped cargo that could be anything.
–No, I’m ok. But go ahead. I’m good to sit for awhile yet.
Marsh walked across to the bar and waited while his glass was refilled. One of the young men who worked in the marina came in with an armload of logs and stacked them by the fireplace. Gulls swooped down to grab starfish exposed as the tide receded. So much was happening in the world. So much to be angry about, to fear, to obsess about during the daylight hours, scrolling through a news feed or listening to the news at 6. But here, on the edge of the peninsula, the mountains beyond soft with fog, you could forget that world and live deeply in this one. Two men struggled with a tote on the dock, trying to lift it onto the deck of a small sailboat. A woman sat on the deck of a converted wooden fishboat, reading – Tessa met her once in the store and learned she lived on the boat with her dog, following the route of Capi Blanchet and her kids in summers, a book Tessa loved. Susan said she’d tried a few ways of living and this was the one that suited her best. She cooked in a few camps when she needed money and she knew how to take her boat’s engine apart and put it back together. She was wearing bright red gumboots and her dog was stretched across her feet.
Ready to walk back?
After the first time, when they hadn’t realized how dark it would be on Maple Road and hadn’t brought a flashlight, stumbling down the Doriston Highway in utter blackness, they always remembered to take one. –Marsh, Sam told me his mum helped them pierce holes in a soup tin for the early walks to school on winter mornings. He said his sister had worked to make star shapes with a sharp nail and that hers was the best by far. Their mum saved candle stubs for their tins. Can you sort of see that? A group of kids walking a dark road swinging little lanterns pierced with stars?