The payoff for waking up in the cold dark to catch the first ferry of the day.
Michael's dad came to visit us this week. Terry is part inspiration for our living on Hornby. His own mother instilled in him a life long love for nature and rural living. Every summer during his childhood she would take him and his sister to a cottage she bought sight unseen on an island in the Lake Of The Woods. In the beginning years she rowed them out to it with all the supplies they would need for the three months they lived there; without power, without phone, without distraction or pollution. Terry passed that heritage to his sons and it irrevocably shaped their lives. In moments of stress and uncertainty, it has provided a stillness and an anchor for Michael. As an adult Michael would introduce it to me and I would fall in love with barefoot summers spent with family and the luxury of time and quiet. And I now owe to a woman I never met a legacy to last my whole life long.
We took advantage of the perfect Autumn day to ride across both Hornby and Denman and have lunch at the Kaffee Klatsch. It makes for the perfect day trip; a good long bike ride through gorgeous scenery and a ferry ride to boot. Oh, and great coffee and pear turnovers (how could I forget?). One of the best changes to come into our lives since moving to Hornby is that we ride our bikes everywhere and how seldom we use our car. Its a great feeling when we realize we haven't filled up on gas in over a month. And the lack of traffic on either island makes it safe and gives us more of a chance to appreciate the quiet beauty around us.
"Each practice brings us back to the importance of now. Our achievements are simply the by-products of our ability to realize the potential of the present moment. That is what we are here to learn. That is the juice." - Rolf Gates, Meditations From The Mat
Where did all our time go Holly? It feels like yesterday when you first jumped into the bed full of spunk and curled your tiny body against mine to it declare your undisputed territory. You measured our yesterdays by jumping out of canoes and into the lake, chasing away deer and running away from the rain, sitting on our feet/your couch waiting for your piece of the toast, and trading gentle kisses between your neck and my nose. Today is measured in tears and ache but also the wonder that so small a frame could hold such a beautiful combination of courage and grace. You are teaching me that time does not stand and the only real sin is taking it, and those around me, for granted. I'm learning too that regretting isn't the same as remembering. And I have so many good memories stored in my heart where I won't forget them. Once again you bravely take the point and while I can't walk with you now, I promise to follow.
I never met her. She was 95 when she passed and the oldest person on the island. People both smile and frown when remembering her to me but her contribution is undeniable. I teach in buildings she helped build and live in the wonderful Hornby community she helped shape. She was here at a time when ordinary people leading simple lives accomplished uncommon things. I know her daughters and I have heard some of the story of her life. But wherever she is I am grateful she passed my way because she is a reminder that I better get busy writing my own story if it is going to be worth recounting one day.
A warm midsummer's night sparked by live music playing on an outdoor stage. We are surrounded by friends and neighbours smiling, dancing, laughing and all around revelling in the fullness of our shared lives together on Hornby. My date is the man who has taken me to every dance for the past 20 years, the love of my life who taught me dreams do come true. And today, almost a year later, I receive a picture from my favourite photographer that perfectly captures all the joy of that magical evening. Gratitude abounds.
"When you are in doubt, be still and wait; when doubt no longer exists for you, then go forward with courage. So long as mist envelops you, be still; be still until the sunlight pours through and dispels the mists - as it surely will. Then act with courage." - Ponca Chief White Eagle (18?-1914)
Image of our newest Buddha sitting across the stream that runs beside the front door.
This dry winter has given me ample opportunity to enjoy Hornby's many beaches. Being alone outdoors away from any signs of technology and mankind provides a special introspection. Filling my lungs with salty air, my mind drifts easily between reality and fantasy and the shore's rough beauty takes on artistic merit. I come home a changed man; calmer, quieter, clearer, and more appreciative of the times when life is rough.
There's a warmth to the air that hints Spring is just around the corner. The afternoon light stretches a little longer each day and I find myself looking for excuses to stay outdoors. After staying so close to the fire for the past few months, its a welcome change. Our hazelnut tree is blooming again and I can't help but stare dizzily at the army of psychedelic candles hanging down by the thread of their wicks. Their featherweight pleasure makes me dream and smile.
All fun during the very popular Hornby Island Polar Bear Swim
I am not a natural in the water. As a kid I never learned to swim and once I nearly drown. All the same, the waters around Hornby are so enticing that I have completely fallen under its spell and I welcome every chance to get in. My friend swims in the ocean everyday, an inspiring ritual she started this fall. And while I am not as committed, my New Year's dip in the pristine oh-so-clear-you-can-see-the-bottom Hornby water has convinced me waiting until the summer to swim again is too long a delay for the joy it brings.
Christmas is an unexpected phone call from one of your best friends. And even though you haven't talked in a while, you don't miss a beat and talk freely about the mundane and the sublime.
Christmas is hanging memories that warm your heart.
Christmas is an afternoon in Seattle 20 years ago with the man of my dreams.
Christmas is remembering friends long gone.
Christmas is loving everyone, including yourself.
Today didn't turn out to be the end of the world so instead I give you the end of the land and the beginning of the Salish Sea. Happy short day and long winter night.
Something miraculous happens to me every time I come to the water's edge. It doesn't matter whether the day is vibrant blue or solemn grey. A change takes place inside me; internal restraints slacken, a space opens, my heart relaxes and my mind unfetters. The expansive sky and stirring water remind me how little I am, how silly my cares. And then conversely, as the salt air runs fresh into my lungs I am revived and I turn back to the beauty of the land and my life.
As if the entrance to the bluffs at Helliwell were not enough spectacular enough, there are these giant Arbutus trees that conjure images of the swirling brushstrokes from Emily Carr paintings. In the three years I have lived here I have lost track of the number of times I have hiked these bluffs. Their beauty is so powerful though I think I could come everyday for the rest of my life and find another layer of expansion and a deeper connection to nature. I am so grateful to John Helliwell who had the foresight and the love to share this land with everyone, including me. Sometimes the only way to say thanks is with a deep breath of fresh air and a smile.
Attending Alastair Heseltine's fall basket making workshop has become a yearly ritual for me. I love the quiet introspection it provides along with the good time shared with friends and neighbours. And the basket that comes out of it is pretty good too. This year's gathering basket will give me something to collect the bounty of harvest from the island, including these conference pears gifted to me this week from dear Susan and Deb. When I first moved to the island someone told me that island living is incredibly rich. Three years into my life here I know exactly what they meant.