A good friend challenged me to go to Helliwell and look away from the grandeur to take in the smaller beauty instead. I must admit it was difficult task especially on a sunny day in February when the towering mountains on Vancouver Island were covered with fresh snow. But pretty soon my eyes readjusted and I could see the merit in her request.
I'm slowly realizing a west coast secret; there is nothing like walking inside the storm. The combined thrill of wind pushing you and cold rain washing your face, the surf filling your ears and nothing but grey in sight. As a kid my mom never let me outside during the rain. This feels like my second chance to finally get out and play.
One of our best New Year's resolutions is promising ourselves to get outside everyday this year. I'm learning that there really is no bad day at the beach. The fresh sea air, the solitude, the lunar landscape and the quiet rush of the wind and surf make our local beach a soothing salve for the winter doldrums.
No one has ever accused us of being trailblazers. So you can imagine our laughter and delight when, after living here four years, we finally discovered the web of trails that lead up the mountain and across the island right behind our home and across Central Road. Literally five minutes out our front door and you are lost to the world and immersed into the beauty of the forest. Before this startling revelation I had been driving half way across the island to start my hikes. Makes me wonder what else besides the mountain is lurking behind my corner.
The entrance of trails is graced by our friend Graham's painting. An inviting a marker as ever there was one.
Our tiny island just got a lot bigger for me. Hilarious!
I don't come to Helliwell as often as I'd like or would care to admit. Remarkably the sun never disappoints making it all that more incomprehensible and spectacular, especially this close to winter. Ahhh, this sweet life.
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. I'll be forever grateful that we moved to Hornby for the last years of your long life where you shed your city leash and could roam and prowl free.
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.