the days are beautiful

Last night I had trouble sleeping. The ugly events in the country to the south of my own filled my mind. Imagine even considering that it would be appropriate to take children from their parents, no matter how legal or illegal the parents’ attempts to cross the Mexico-US border might be. No one leaves a home country unless they are desperate. So imagine the difficulty and pain those parents have experienced already (and the stories are beyond terrible) and then imagine removing the children from their parents and putting them in cages. Imagine believing that somehow the Bible has decreed that this is just fine. Listening to privileged men and women suggest that it is within the realm of what’s humane to do this has made me so angry I could eat rocks. Spit fire.

And this only one event, one awful moment in a country’s devolution.

This morning John was outside deconstructing the little deck and two sets of stairs leading to our printshop, the home of our High Ground Press. He likes building projects and these steps and the deck are the last things that need replacing. He’s been pulling usable wood from storage under the printshop—some 2x6s used in a treehouse that was taken down years ago; some other bits and pieces. I was working at my desk when I thought it might be nice to have a cinnamon bun from the bakeshop on the Skookumchuck Trail. For years it was run by Lynn and Martin Mees and the baking was just wonderful. The cinnamon buns, brioche with blue cheese, small pizzas, huge cookies. And really good coffee. Lynn and Martin moved on to a new chapter and a young couple bought the bakeshop. I thought we could also go to the museum in Egmont where you’d find the best collection of chain saws and Easthope engines anywhere. And a scribbler from the old school at Doriston containing a child’s report on his or her own community, a place still remembered by some, including my friend Andrew Scott who wrote this about Doriston some years back. (He’s been to Doriston but I haven’t. Lucky him.)

The bakeshop was closed, still on spring hours (weekends only until July 1 when it opens 7 days a week). We crossed the road to the museum, mostly so John could ask about donating an old chain saw, and I saw the most beautiful small bentwood cedar boxes made by Shain Jackson. I bought one because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. It smells so rich and resiny and the abalone is soft to the thumb.

cedar frog

I wanted to take a photograph of the Egmont Community Hall for the project I am most emphatically not doing (a history of B.C.’s community halls). I’ll add it to the collection of materials I’ve been gathering about the halls in case someone else wants to take the project on. We’ve danced at weddings here, eaten small salmon sandwiches at funerals, and wandered in and out on Egmont Daze when hotdogs are free for kids and huge urns of coffee are steaming and the Thrift store upstairs is open for business.

Egmont Hall

What now, I asked, because I was hungry. Let’s see if the West Coast Wilderness Lodge is open, John replied. And it was, just. We were the first people there for lunch and we had the best seats in the room that is a wonder of the world. Old fir floors and a view of Jervis Inlet:

west coast wilderness lodge

Driving back along the Egmont Road, I stopped the car by North Lake to look at the beaver lodge right by the shore. A pair of yellow warblers must’ve had a nest in the hardhack growing beside the lodge because they kept darting in and out of the green depths and another male was singing in a snag nearby. And all over the surface of the lake along the road, white waterlilies—Nymphaea tetragona?—in bloom, like a moment out of Monet.

lilies on north lake

So sometimes the days are beautiful. You wake from broken sleep, you feel helpless and angry, you wonder how you can go on in a world that values lives so little that children would cry from cages while their parents were imprisoned elsewhere, and then you drive to Egmont where small wonders reveal themselves unexpectedly. Warblers, lilies, a frog with abalone eyes. If there was to be a soundtrack for the morning, it would be Michelle Shocked singing “Blackberry Blossom” because all along the Egmont Road the long thorny canes were holding blossoms up to the sun.

Can you tell me what happened to the blossom
Blackberry blossom when the summertime came?
The blackberry blossom, oh the last time I saw one
Was down in the bramble where I rambled in the spring.

blackberry blossom

 

 

.

“That I loved the old wooden walls, the cold toilets, the scent of seaweed when the doors were open?”

shirley hall

On Monday, John and I took Angie and Craig out to Point No Point for lunch. This has been a favourite destination of mine since the early 1970s when friends and I would drive out on a Sunday for tea in front of the fire. Miss Packham served the tea and I remember there were little squares and perhaps cucumber sandwiches. It was my dream to stay in one of the little cabins and John and I did just that in 1982. There was a fireplace, a basket with old New Yorkers, a bed that filled a tiny alcove looking out over salal to the sea.

Where does the name come from? I’d wondered but never looked it up. The little brochure on our table at lunch provided the answer and I’ve found it again on the resort website: “The unusual name “Point-No-Point” comes from the original survey of this stretch of coast. It refers to a secondary point of land that is apparent, but doesn’t extend farther than the two primary points on either side of it, commonly referred to as a “point-no-point”.”

The little dining rooms—there are two— hang out over the salal and spruces and you feel that you could drop a stone into the surf below. There are binoculars on each table so that you can determine whether you are seeing seals or kelp. The food is delicious. I had chowder and soda bread and a glass of Quail’s Gate Chasselas-Pinot Blanc-Pinot Gris. After lunch we walked down through a tunnel of green to the rocks by the water.

point no point

As we drove towards Point No Point on the West Coast Road, I asked John to stop the car opposite the Shirley Community Hall. If you’ve read my novella Winter Wren, you might remember the dance at the Hall, circa 1974. I believe that’s the year I went to a dance there and never forgot it. I think there were dances of that sort at community halls all over the province. Long tables filled with food, a raffish band, wild dancing: in short, memorable.

But do we remember? Will we remember? Last year John and I went to a concert at the Cooper’s Green Hall in Halfmoon Bay. It was wonderful, Tube Radio (Boyd Norman, Gary McGuire, Brent Fitzsimmons, Ian McLatchie, and Andrew Bate, joined by Simon Paradis) playing great music and people dancing and talking at tables pushed against the wall. At the intermission, I went to the bathroom and joined the line of women waiting for their turn. A woman in front of me turned around and said, “I’ll be glad when they tear this place down and build a new hall.” I was so surprised I didn’t know what to say. And what would I have said? That I loved the old wooden walls, the cold toilets, the scent of seaweed when the doors were open? The dark field you crossed to where you parked your car, lit only by stars? The memory of apple butter being stirred in a huge cauldron at the Apple Festival in front of the hall each autumn?

I’ve been thinking about the old community halls and talking to people about them. In our own small community, we have several. The one in Madeira Park where we’ve attended some of those grand old dances, including a Fishermen’s Homecoming where portraits of the boats were all drawn by school children and hung in fish nets on the walls, weddings, funerals, awards ceremonies, spring bazaars and Christmas craft sales, and if we were gambling types, we’d have gone to the weekly bingo too, and it’s where we vote, where the rowdy community meetings rattle the roof when new bylaws have to be introduced, and where more than a few all-candidates debates have shown that people we like don’t necessarily vote the same way we do! There’s a wonderful old hall in Egmont where we’ve danced at weddings and cried at funerals and where the hippie-stomp dances are legendary, as are the community seafood feasts.

I have in mind a grand gathering of profiles of the halls of British Columbia. I can’t do this myself and even tremble at the thought of trying to organize the project but I think it’s important that we record and commemorate these places before they disappear. As Joni Mitchell so beautifully sang, Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone? (And she once sang “Unchained Melody” at a wedding in the Madeira Park Community Hall!) I know that the British Columbia History Magazine did feature community halls in an issue in 2016 but I’d love to see more, know more. If you have a story about a community hall, please contact me (theresakishkan at gmail. com) and if I find there’s critical mass, I will try to take this forward. I have several people on board already. The wonderful Matt Rader wrote of the Dove Creek Hall near Courtenay:

Tell me, who hung the hand-stitched stars on the wall?
Who hung the evening light from the windows?

And that’s it. That’s it exactly. Let’s find out!

inlet

I wanted to do something new this time to celebrate the visit of all my children and their partners, and my lovely grandbaby Kelly. Maybe a boat trip up Princess Louisa Inlet? Possible, certainly, but expensive for the 9 of us. And 5 hours, maybe not the best idea for a year-old baby in summer. And everyone has been swimming in Ruby Lake, going down two or three times a day to plunge into its familiar waters, so leaving our place for 5 hours or more (in order to get to the marina, etc. and then get home again) wasn’t ideal. Well, what about lunch out, at a restaurant on Jervis Inlet, with the most wonderful view on earth? John was willing to treat us all so we got into our convoy of cars and headed to Egmont.

And it was completely wonderful. A table on a covered deck overhung with wisteria (a bit like home), jugs of beer from the Townsite Brewing Company in Powell River, cold white wine from New Zealand, and fabulous food — newly-shucked oysters with little dishes of garnish, bowls of mussels and clams in a winey tomato broth, burgers (beef and steelhead), a pulled-lamb sandwich, a clubhouse sandwich of albacore tuna, salads…Kelly loved the ice cream that came with her parents’ Campfire S’Mores — chocolate terrine, marshmallow fluff, a graham cracker crumble. And oh, the view…

Tomorrow night, a party here of local friends who’ve known our kids all their lives (pretty much). A beautiful sockeye salmon to barbeque, some chickens to roast early with tarragon, lamb to stuff with pistachios and lots of garlic. 2 desserts are on the freezer already — chocolate cake, a marbled chocolate/hazelnut cheesecake — and there are Klein Lake Trail blackberries in the fridge to make into galettes in the morning. We’d hoped to have what Manon calls “firecamp” but there’s a campfire ban in our district right now, due to months of drought, so it’s a good thing a few of us had the Campfire S’Mores at lunch today.

the inlet

September offering

For so many years, the day after Labour Day marked the first day of school for our household. Up early, new pencils and notebooks packed into backpacks, eye on the clock, kids racing down the driveway as the school bus made the turn on the highway coming from Egmont. I’d listen from the deck to hear the bus doors opening, then closing, and the engine revving as the bus began its ascent of the Sakinaw hill. John or I would walk the kids down to the bus when they were little but then they asked us not to. Our black Lab/Wolf X Lily went with them, waiting until they’d climbed the step and the driver closed the doors to return to the house without them, patient until 3:45 when she’d cock an ear, then trot down the driveway again to meet them. Our Retriever X Tiger was less reliable. Some days she’d accompany them and some days she’d be off in her own world. But she did love to see them walking up the driveway.

I still hear the bus, still imagine it stopping at our driveway for the ghosts who wait for it. Still expect to see a black dog, or a golden one, returning.

In the meantime, here’s a September bouquet, and a few lines of Anna Akhmatova, in Judith Hemschemyer’s translation:

“Let them be more plentiful than stars kindled

In the September skies —

For children, for wanderers, for lovers

They grow, those wild flowers.”