Our Long & Winding Road (road pics from the Coquahala BC, Morley AB, & Yamnuska AB)
Back in Calgary
February 26, 2010
It’s been exactly a year since that life shaking pulmonary embolism that precipitated some needed focus on my health, and then deeper questions about what I want to be doing with my life. As you know, at least two answers have surfaced: one is that I really want to live with Dad and the other is that I really want to be on the west coast. It’s kind of amazing, but Cori, the cats and I are now in Calgary, living with Dad in the interim between selling Garden Avenue & finding a home on Vancouver Island.
Over the last month we’ve learned a bunch about what’s likely to happen in the next phase, and have had quite a lovely time doing it. We left here on a glorious prairie day that offered a spectacular entry to the mountains. Were surprised to see how little snow accumulation there was along the whole route - but that said, we missed by maybe 16 hours an avalanche that closed the Roger’s Pass for part of a day.
We learned about extreme snowmobiling from the guy who ran The Peaks Inn restaurant in Revelstoke – we left our breakfast conversation with him & his wife to drive in a snowstorm , that became rain and intermittent intense fog, and four hours later were in the bursting, spring green of the Fraser Valley (see pic). No car that I’m driving can resist turning at Lickman Rd , (just outside of Chilliwack) in order to drive down Unsworth Rd to see what were my aunts Nan’s and Jo’s places. This time we stopped and spent a good part of an hour talking with Gary who currently owns Jo’s and playing with his young pup. Buzzy (Dad’s cousin) and Art in Aldergrove put us up for the night and then we caught the Tswassen ferry to Victoria – the Saanich Peninsula, to be more precise. (Right click on these links to see more details).
The fastest route from Buzzy’s to the ferry is to go along “0” Ave, which is the Cda-US border. No walls or fences, just a ditch & the occasional security camera. It’s a very unassuming road, with a no-person’s land feel on the US side except for the occasional house that shows through the trees. Kind of surreal.
This photo, a reflection in the ferry window, captures the last day we wore our winter coats – we shed them when we landed that afternoon. The City of Victoria hung flower baskets in the streets in honor of the Olympics, for pete’s sake. It’s both known in the rest of the country, and a closely guarded secret that spring in Victoria was well underway when we arrived in early February, with not just snow drops showing, but rhododendrons and cherry blossoms.
Shelly Gordon had put us in touch with her friends, Anne & Sheila, who offered us the suite in their basement for the time we were looking around Victoria. It was the perfect place! They greeted us with dinner, and over the couple of weeks we were there they provided us with shelter, real estate advice, companionship watching the Olympics, and entry to the women’s community. We have become very fond of them both and their two gorgeous smoky grey Thai cats. They took us to a “Stolen Sisters” march on Valentines day, led by many from the surrounding first nations communities, that was both a great introduction to activists and our first real walking tour of downtown Victoria. We spent lovely time with Jane Hastings who I first met at Simon Fraser U., Sue Birge, my colleague from NAC days, and with Marlea & Cathy. Marlea is another old buddy and now co-reseacher/author on the “employment strain” book I’ve been involved with for years, and she & Cath have been very encouraging of this move. They live in the completely interesting development called “Dockside Green”, a large environmentally conscious project that is building new residences along some of Vic’s old port lands. Cori’s pottery community put us in touch with Cathi Jefferson who invited us to stay in her cabin outside of Duncan. That didn’t work for us, but we spent a wonderful afternoon with her, delighting in her pottery, drooling over her workshop. We took a day to go to Galiano Island to see my old friend Dorrie Ratzlaff at the opening of the Twirly Tree arts shop, which shows some of her work. At the end of the day I won the “door prize”, which included some great Dorrie graphics, and other goodies. My brother Bob & I had a long lunch – he & Louise moved exactly a year ago to the very north end of the peninsula, and have useful experience to draw from. And Mike & Jo from Calgary are, like other Albertans, learning the joys of bailing out of Alberta in February and are staying in Sydney – we had a delightful lunch with them too.
But most of the two weeks we were in the area we were not socializing, we were looking at houses. We looked at houses up to the tip of the Peninsula, to the bottom west of Victoria in Metchosin. There were ‘executive homes’ and tear-downs. Some had spectacular views, others said they did but you had to bend the trees on someone else’s property to see what they might be talking about. We learned, from sending floor plans to Dad by email and then long SKYPE conversations with him at night, that the best space for him will likely be on the main living floor (a master bedroom and maybe a den) so that he isn’t removed from our collective living. I am still holding out for a view of the water, or at least a vista, and we’ve re-confirmed that we need to be careful that the house gets enough sun. Some places have had huge workshop / studio space for Cori – others have not. But we saw enough to feel that one would eventually show up that fit all our criteria. Cori did considerable scouting about working as a realtor on the Peninsula and left feeling that there were good possibilities. But the area is expensive, and that worries us. So did the freeze on government spending that has already happened and will get tighter, and the consequent non-existence of both government & non-profit jobs and contracts that might employ me.
Then we spent five days in the Comox Valley. It’s a 3 hour drive from Victoria; 1 hour north of Nanaimo (and a direct flight from Calgary). If you move the map around a bit, you will see that it’s close to Hornby Isl. which most of you know is our favorite place on the planet. We stayed in Courtney in another basement suite that was referred to us by several friends on Hornby. It’s a smaller community, so there were not as many properties to look at – but many of those that we did see were very close to what we’re looking for. The perfect one wasn’t on the market, but we feel certain that one will show up. I was knocked out again by how beautiful the Georgia Straight is, and how much I love the part that lies between Comox and the tips of Hornby & Denman Islands. The houses seemed to be much more like what we expected, and some of the locations had a wild-ness (not remoteness, just not heavily developed) that felt right to us. It is, however, smaller. Cori did her realtor scouting again and found that she would likely have to work harder (ie. sell more houses) there to make the same income as in Victoria. At the same time because costs are lower, there might be less pressure to do so.
Judith and Vickie encouraged us to come to Hornby over the weekend, and we had some lovely time with them. We picnicked on the south end of the Island on one of those really foggy days that the world saw during the Olympic coverage. We couldn’t see a horizon – the fog and water merged not very far off shore. But what we did see (and hear) were Stellar sea lions – huge beasts whose backs looked like small whales as they swam - who were waiting for the herring run, on their way further north.
So we’ve not found the perfect place, and are not yet completely certain where we want to be, but we have had a good time looking. There are of course days when we’re a bit panicked that we’ve not found it and don’t know what the next phase will look like. But mostly we’re happy with what we’re learning, and continue to know that the west is the right direction. I think Dad is enjoying “the hunt”, and is very much in the middle of all our conversations about what might work & what wouldn’t. He & the cats had a good time together while we were gone, with enough time to train each other in their various habits. His cracked pelvis seems to be healing, which is good. He’s off on Monday for two weeks to Pheonix, to hang out with his friends Jim and Moira, and to play the occasional round of golf.
We miss being some dista
nce from you all. It’s particularly strong on days when we are confused about what comes next and could use all your good sense and counsel. One of the hard things about traveling was not being able to easily pick up the phone for a good long talk. We’re back to a permanent land line, so please call if you can.