Sunday, 18 March 2012

A Memoir

It will soon be twelve years since George and I crept out of the rainforest and flew back east. The re-entry was our millennium project; the six years on the left coast was our experiment. 
Over the next little while I intend to write about the experiment and what has happened since the re-entry. A mini memoir.
The experiment began in February, 1994, just after we finally sold our house in Hudson, Quebec. Now homeless, we put our furniture in storage, packed up some essentials, (pillows, blankets, candles, George's computer pre-laptops, George's keyboard and some wine) in the Pontiac STE sedan and headed west in -30 C weather. I cried a lot during that five day journey. What were we doing!? Why were we leaving our friends and family!?

Our destination was Chemainus, B.C., 'The Little Town That Did'.  If you want to see a lot of murals go there. We arrived around noon, found a real estate agent called Myrtle and bought a little house.

This little house kept us busy for the next six years as we worked like crazy to fix it up. The window at the very top had a view of Salt Spring Island and that room became my studio. The hedge in front is cotoneaster, an evergreen shrub that required serious pruning every spring.

This shot was taken from Old Town Chemainus looking west toward the small mountain whose name I can't recall but whose presence blocked out the sun at our house after 7:30 pm.

Within walking distance of our house was this natural parkland called the Hermit's Trail. The Hermit's name was Charlie Abbott, a solitary soul who, according to local lore, had once been a master gardener to the rich and famous in and around Hollywood. What caused him to wander northward and stumble upon this wooded ravine and set up camp? There are many stories. He died in the late eighties, I believe, but this enchanting park is his legacy. He created it day by day, laying trails and moving rocks in his wheelbarrow. The villagers supported him with food and shelter donations--he lived in an old camper--and were rewarded with his labour of love.

There is a statue of Charlie with his wheelbarrow by sculptor Glen Spicer at the entrance to the park and local volunteers maintain the trails. Or at least that's the way it was when we lived there.

 Some of the things we did during our stay there were pretty wacky. Here's George standing next to his camera suit after taking part in the Chemainus Daze (yes) parade. He was promoting the local photographer, J. Neil Newton. I was not in the parade; I was serving customers at Toad Hall Emporium, owned by J. Neil's partner, Dianne Hopkins.

But I did take part in the Easter Parade and fashioned this 'bonnet' which was supposed to represent angels singing. I don't know why. 

George joined a jazz band called The Brady Bunch. Yes, the leader's name was Brady. Here he poses for a photo op in the local paper.

And here I am posing by the goldfish pond we built and enjoyed from the deck for several years.  

We had lots of visitors. Sons Jon and Andrew cozy up in front of the fireplace. They hadn't seen each other for a long time (Jon was, and is, living in Montreal. Andrew was in Victoria.) It was so great seeing them together again. They do a good Bert and Ernie routine. 

My sister and her daughters flew in from Toronto for a visit. Melissa and Joanna look so young here. They were.  

It was rare to have snow but this snowfall was a biggie. The funny thing was how excited we became when it did snow. Reminded us how we missed the east. And so, after a long and extra rainy winter in 1999 we decided to sell up and move back. It would be our Millennium project.

In February, 2000, our house was sold and our friends threw us a party. This photo was taken by J. Neil Newton at the end of the bash. We had made a lot of friends during that short time in Chemainus. Some have since passed on, but I still enjoy hearing from some of the others.  It was another world, another time, and I'm happy we had it. 

And before we left I painted this little watercolour of our house.