We were away for a week, on Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island, and the weather—apart from drizzle the first morning—was glorious. Sun, warm temperatures, Victoria (in particular) at its best: flowers everywhere, the sidewalk patios full of people, many walkers on the Ogden Point breakwater. The kind of weather and ambience that had us looking almost seriously at For Sale signs in James Bay, wondering, wondering. We have friends and family members in Victoria. Almost every early memory I have is of its streets, its Garry oaks, the lights across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Even the faint scent of sewage on the beaches along Dallas Road, a problem that has yet to be solved, more than 50 years later.
Here’s the house I lived in for a couple of years in Fairfield,
from which I walked to school (Sir James Douglas Elementary, the old Annex) each morning and wandered from on my small blue bike. We were free-range children and no one ever said (that I can remember) to stay close to home. Some mornings my mum would say, Go ride your bike in the cemetery, and that gave me my first sense of history as I rode along the quiet paths of Ross Bay Cemetery and read the stones commemorating Sir James Douglas, Amor de Cosmos, Emily Carr, and Nellie Cashman. Some days I rode further afield, as far as Beacon Hill Park and the Museum (where Angelica now works), stopping to watch an old man carving at Thunderbird Park, who, by process of deduction, I realize was Mungo Martin. He talked to me, showed me the long curls of cedar slicing away like soft butter. (My friend Robin Ridington told me the other night that Mungo’s was the first Indigenous obituary in the American Anthropologist.) No one much noticed a little girl on a bike so I saw stuff and took in the world in a way that I am eternally grateful for. I said to John as we drove along Dallas Road that there was a point where I knew without ever being told that I shouldn’t ride beyond; that was where Douglas Street meets Dallas Road. I was 7 years old.
So a long-winded postcard this morning, a round-about way of saying that though I’m glad to have had a Victorian childhood, I’m also glad to wake to the quiet of our woods, the sound of geese overhead. Pot roast in the slow cooker, the smell of woodsmoke (because it’s now cool enough for a morning fire), and a cat sleeping on the rocking chair beside the woodstove. He’s very grateful to be home (he stayed at Catnip Cottage, a feline retreat…) and so am I.