her shadow, running ahead


When we arrived in Victoria the other day, it was cold. But yesterday it felt like the season had turned. We sat on the little balcony with glasses of rosé, in shirtsleeves, with the sun warming everything in sight: even the seals bobbing their heads just beyond were glossy with sunlight.

Does the place where one was a child imprint more deeply than anywhere? I think so. And Victoria is that place for me. More specifically the whole length of Dallas Road, from here, at the Surf Motel opposite Ogden Point breakwater (where we’ll walk in a few minutes), all along the water to just beyond Clover Point, below the Ross Bay Cemetery, as far as Gonzales Bay. I remember my mother walking us over to Gonzales to the beach and how she remembered living in a little cottage with my father and her first child, my brother Dan, and how it seemed that we were swimming in the shadow of those years. I felt this at 7 years of age. I’m hard-wired for nostalgia.

And as an aside: my mother never let us go swimming alone. But we were free to do anything else on our own. Part of the reason that I feel this area is imprinted in my body and memory is because I rode my bike over its terrain in grades one and two. No one said I couldn’t. So I explored, often with a friend or two, but sometimes alone. I wasn’t alone the summer afternoon a couple of us rode as far as Thunderbird Park where the doors of Wawadiťła were open and a very old man, with younger helpers, were working on some carving. I don’t remember what, exactly, but I do remember that the man showed us his adze and I remember the scent of cedar as shavings fell to the ground. The other day I walked past Wawadiťła on my way to the Museum where Angelica’s friend Dr. Genevieve Hill showed me just a small sampling of the anthropological collection. I loved the scraps of baskets, twines, and other remnants of the materials I believe are so important to human history. And the photographs! And a horse skull. Bone beads.

We shopped at Capital Iron where my father spent hours on Saturday mornings, rummaging through barrels of army surplus clothing in the basement, and where I bought the backpack that I carried through Europe in the mid-1970s. We had dim sum at Don Mee’s, another old haunt. Today we’ll amble through Beacon Hill Park.

If you look at the photograph above, middle of the left edge, you can see a woman running. Her shadow is ahead of her. That’s exactly how I feel.