Thursday, September 9, 2010

This new year

OK, OK, it’s been far too long since we sent everyone an update. And, it’s been a year, almost to the day, that we decided to make this move and start to prepare Garden Ave. for sale. It’s our own Rosh Hashanah, the new year in this transition we’ve created for ourselves. It’s been a year of being unsettled, and you know, it’s mostly been amazing.

What a summer we’ve had. We’re here, and are always thinking about our special network of friends & family, but we’ve have been a bit busy and our more regular communications have been disrupted. But we’re settling some and today seems like the perfect day to bring you up to date a bit.
Today was the first time since we arrived in July that we were really aware of the ‘surf’ that is so close to us. The wind was quite strong this morning and our usually calm waters were full of whitecaps and waves that crashed against the shore. I was working outside at the front of the house and was thrilled that I could be painting a cupboard and hearing the ocean at the same time.
It’s been a remarkable couple of months weather-wise - the Island has shown us its full summer beauty - maybe three days have included rain for the first two months, although that’s beginning to change now. Every day we spend some time just sitting by a window, or on the deck, drinking in Baynes Sound, the Georgia Straight, Texada Island and the Coast Mountains, or the trees in the back yard. Except in the morning, when everything is bright orange and green, this landscape has hundreds of shades of blue that change from minute to minute. Cori & I are pinching ourselves, that we get to be here, even if it’s a bit of a struggle to find the right name for that specific shade of “blue”.
Truth be, we seem to have lost our words for many things – we’re living in a renovation and things like the “vanity wall” are more often “you know, the place we agreed we would put that thingy we were talking about”. So many things are new or unfamiliar or don’t have the usual ‘anchors’ ... “I really liked that one color that we saw in that store, you know the one (what city, on what street, on what object)”. Or are among a thousand similar things to choose from ….“is this sink less expensive than the one we liked in Calgary (2 months and hundreds of web sites & brochures later)?” But all of that said, we are very privileged to be in a position to make these kind of decisions, and mostly we are managing to communicate with each other and our builders.
The short version of the time here starts with our arrival June 30 to take possession of the house. Cori & I camped out oustairs for two nights, then the furniture arrived from Ontario and we set up the basics. Deb, Billee and Dar from Toronto were our very first visitors – they showed up for a quick hug while the movers were still here, on their way to Hornby. Dad flew in the next day and the day after that my two cousins arrived to help us start the renovations, particularly, tearing out walls and constructing the shaft for the little elevator. We had a great time that week. Bill (from Salt Spring) and Bob (Powell River) are both experienced builders. They’d start at 7:30 (a pattern that was a shock to our systems, but hasn’t really changed since) and worked hard (Dad supervising) until late afternoon when we’d all sit on the deck and drink in the view. They arrived with fresh caught crab, which set the tone for a week of great eating! After ‘the boys’ left, Dad felt assured that everything was well underway, so he returned to Calgary to avoid the chaos here and to tend his garden. Unfortunately not long after he returned, his part of the city was hit with a heavy hail storm that ripped many of his lovely potatoes and annual flowers to shreds. They’ve recovered, but it was an upsetting mess.
The second crew of Comox-based builders began immediately after the cousin’s ‘shift’. Mike, Reubin & Tristan have been wonderful to have working in the house. We’ve left only two walls untouched on the 2nd floor, although we’ve had (& rejected for now) designs on both of them. They’re in the finishing stages of changes to 2 bathrooms, the master bedroom, Dad’s bed – sitting rooms, and the various entrances to the lift. This week they’ve opened up a door and window in the garage in preparation for Cori’s studio, and another team are working on the exterior of the house. You may remember that there were big concerns about moisture in the stucco when we bought the house, and that after considerable anxiety and talking with exterior experts we decided to take the risk that there was no structural damage. This week we’ve confirmed that there isn’t !! So this team is cleaning it all up and re-sealing it, and will give it a new colour (when Cori & I have figured out what we’d like).
OK, back to mid-July. Wayne came to Victoria to have dinner with Marlea & I to celebrate the publication of the book “Working Without Commitments”. It’s been almost 10 years that we’ve been working on this project and it feels great to have this phase completed. Cori & I stayed with Anne & Sheila again, which was lovely, and spent a day looking at house stuff. We’d only really been Comox Valley residents for 2 weeks at that point, but we found ourselves a bit shocked by the traffic, the cost of parking and size of Victoria and were very excited about our drive back up the Island to “home”.
A week after that we got back in the car to go to Calgary to pick up Dad and head into the BC interior for the Philip family reunion - Dad’s mother’s family. There were 26 cousins in Dad’s generation, and who knows how many in the subsequent ones (although there is a “tree” and it was being updated at the reunion). There were 70 or 80 of us camped together, or at the one or two motels in Hixon. Dad was the elder of this gathering. He and his younger cousin Buzzy are the only remaining of the 26. He, Cori, Bob & I shared an RV for a couple of nights, which was new for everybody, but which turned out to be fine. On this weekend where there were more cameras than people, I had a wasp sting me on the inside of my upper lip (it was inside my drink can). I looked a bit like Bart Simpson, and after it stopped hurting and it was clear the swelling wasn’t going to close up my throat, it was kind of funny. Most important, we came away with some new and stronger contacts, which was great.
The first day of our drive back to Calgary was through the Cariboo, and we spoke about how vulnerable the entire middle of the province feels to fire – which indeed broke out a couple of days after we left. Millions of acres of the pine forest have been killed by the pine beetle, leaving dead trees that are like a floor of kindling.
After re-acquainting ourselves with our cats in Calgary and an early birthday dinner for Dad, we left again to spend the weekend at the Canmore Folk Festival before carrying on to the Island. This was our second year volunteering with the Snowy Owl Dog Sled team who arrange (vehicle) transport for the musicians. It was a bit wet, but was a great weekend of music. Two musical highlights – Buffy St. Marie, and, Cori being invited to join the big crowd on stage to sing the closing songs.
Not long after we arrived back, Pramila & Arun came for a couple of days, and it was wonderful to have them here in this new place. Arun was celebrating his graduation from high school, and we were honored to be able to do this with him. We went up Mt. Washington on the ski lift one spectacular day and could see to Nanaimo in one direction and up past Campbell River in the other. Another day we sent them off to see seals and then horseback riding, and on the next we went up to Telegraph Cove to go out on the water to see whales. And they are still there, the whales – in one spectacular moment we saw a pod of orca, led by a minke whale, with a hunchback whale surfacing very close to them. This visit was the beginning of knitting together previous lives with this new one – and was very important. The next week my old friend Vic arrived with his son Liam for a couple of nights. We spend a day on the Francis Barkley, the mail and small freight boat that travels from Pt. Alberni to Bamfield every day. It takes along about 40 passengers, and is a delightful way to spend a day. Terry, who Cori & I connected with by singing our hearts out at a campfire at the family reunion, brought her daughter Natalie to visit overnight. We had just brought in several boxes of peaches to do our first canning, and it turns out that Terry is a master canner. So we spent the evening hearing stories of Natalie’s last 8 years in China and learning to can peaches.
Several people have come for dinners, brunches, coffee – Jan and Rosalyn from Calgary, Anne & Sheila from Victoria, Bob & Louise from Sydney, and Bob & Laura from Powell River and their daughter Krista & granddaughter Sonara from Edmonton.
Our community builder friends here, Karin & Agathe, set us up with a plot in a community garden before we arrived in June, and even planted for us. We’ve enjoyed visiting it every couple of days to water, and now to harvest – we’ve a spectacular harvest of beans & kale. These two women are wonderful, and are looking after us with regular check-ins, the occasional meal and introductions to as many people as we can manage. We had a little garage sale on the long weekend (sinks, tubs, doors, lighting, etc. that has been changed in the reno) which turned out to be the perfect way to introduce ourselves to more neighbours, so we can put more names on the folks who walk by & their dogs. There are almost as many dogs & their people go by here as there are cars!
This canning story captures many of the interactions we’ve had with people here…. We were in Quality Foods picking up cases of peaches. Cori asked the other woman who was inspecting them what she intended to do with them, and she introduced herself as ‘Sylvia the canner’, a lovely woman who is also a nurse. We had a short course in canning on the spot, and then she offered us a sample of her jam. She gave us her address and said she’d leave a bottle on the doorstep. The next day Cori went by, and was welcomed by a golden retriever (who is much like Verdi) and by Sylvia’s husband Dell, a retired bush pilot. He invited her into their beautiful home, showed her the pantry with stacks of preserved fruit & fish, the green house with tomatoes & cukes, the bees for pollinating everything, the smoke house for fish. It came up that we were novices at filleting fish, and Dell asked if we wanted a lesson. So Cori came home, gathered me and the small sockeye’s we’d got the day before, and took us back to Dell who spent another hour showing us how a fisher does it. We left with another couple of jars of his canned, smoked salmon, and new friends!
This next couple of months are going to be similarly busy. It’s Rosh Hashanah, so Karin and another friend are coming for dinner this evening. Then the potter’s guild arrives – Zsuzsa & Carole Anne Michaelson, and three potters from further south on the Island are coming here for a night, then we are all going to Hornby for a couple of nights, then returning here for a bit. Cori’s mom & Max are coming for ten days at the end of the month, which is very exciting (and a reason to push for the finish of the renos). Dad has found house-sitters for November – April, and that’s really great. We’re working on the details of how to actually make that trip (transporting the things from home that will make him comfortable, the cats, the car). We will certainly be in Calgary to help him pack up and get the house ready for the last couple of weeks of October.

Wishing you all the best for this coming year. Much love to all, and so many thanks for the love & support that you’ve show us this year.