[cross-posted to my other blog]
I’ve been on quite a reading kick lately, devouring books over my morning tea – which I enjoy out on the deck during these lovely summer days – and in bed after the kids have gone to sleep. My tastes are varied but from the initially random selection of books a theme has emerged. I have found a new interest…dare I say it may become a passion? I’m finding myself drawn to stories and books about my home and native province, British Columbia.
I was born and raised in Vancouver and spent all but a few short years living there. While I traveled somewhat around the province while growing up nothing really stuck with me in terms of places or names. It wasn’t until I moved back here with my new family and we took our first camping trips together that I began to really learn the geography of BC. We explored the Okanagan north and south, and traveled through Cariboo country on our way to visit the mother-in-law. When we began house-hunting on Vancouver Island I learned the major place names and regions. Slowly I’m getting a feel for southern BC, getting to know it. And as I’ve gotten to know it I’ve become more curious about it: the geography and natural history in particular.
One of the books I picked up recently was In Search of Ancient British Columbia, Volume I.
I was riveted – especially the parts about Vancouver Island. As I read through the book I thought about the concept of the Staycation, made popular when gasoline prices shot up a while back. The idea is to explore one’s own backyard, one’s home region. I couldn’t ask to be in a better part of the world for that. BC is vast and filled with wilderness; with so many different bioregions it’s like visiting a different part of the world each trip. There are so many wonderful places (many I learned about in the aforementioned book) that I began to feel I could spend my whole life just choosing camping spots in BC and never run out of amazing experiences. While I value the experience of traveling abroad, it’s not something practical for our family as more than a once-or-twice in a lifetime opportunity. Meanwhile, our lifestyle lends itself to short, impromptu trips during the week when the rest of the world is working or during the “shoulder season” when families are still tied to their schools. Perfect for a staycation.
The next book I picked up was a history of Burrard Inlet. I grew up in an old one-story house up on the hills of West Vancouver, with a to-die-for view of the western half of the inlet (something modest families could afford back in the sixties), so the book was particularly interesting and meaningful to me. I began to see that while all the books I had picked up from the library were interesting in their own right (the story of Emilie du Chatelet, a female scientist before there were such things and Voltaire’s long-time mistress, was wonderful) there was something different about the books on BC. Their meaning went deeper for me because this place was home. And I began to think about that concept more.
My current book is called Writing the West Coast: In Love with Place. I wasn’t sure I would like it, but I felt drawn to it all the same. Most of my reading had been technical in nature and here I was going to take a side trip to the more abstract world of creative writing. I’m only partway through the book, but it has taken the kindling feelings from the first few books and stoked them into a burning fire. The stories are about the concept of Home, about belonging, and the role of a place’s natural surroundings in finding that connection. I read with great interest an essay by a young woman, a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. She wrote of her home on the west coast of Vancouver Island and how she felt connected to it through her culture and its history. I had just recently learned some of that history in the previous books I’d read and was really touched by her writing. In fact, the best way to describe it is I was envious. To have a sense of place like that, to be able to feel connection through elders and ancestors, through stories and legends and to know that your people had lived and sustained themselves there for thousands of years…that must be something really special. It was the role of Nature and the natural surroundings of the places in these stories that really resonated with me, because I too feel this deep sense of connection when I’m out in Nature. Not being much of a writer I haven’t been able to find voice to this feeling, not in a way that does it justice. These stories are giving me words.
And in reading I’m feeling the stirrings of something deep within me. Perhaps it is my stage of life, who knows. But I’m feeling an urge to explore this place, and to find new ways to connect with my surroundings. Besides a strong desire to start heading off on small camping trips again, something else has started bouncing around in my head and it won’t go away: kayaking.
I don’t know why it has suddenly been buzzing around in my head, but I’ve been thinking that I’d like to learn to kayak. There’s something about being so close to the water that appeals to me. Then I began reading of the tours offered by our local kayaking outfitters, and I pestered my Dad and Stepmum with questions about their sea kayaking trip around Haida Gwaii some years ago. I was excited by their stories of wildlife encounters, even just paddling over a shallow section of reef studded with a rainbow of sea stars, rays, fish, and other creatures. Of camping on sandy beaches in isolated island coves with nobody else for miles around. The solitude, the quiet, the closeness to nature. This is something that really, really appeals to me. And what a way to find that connection to Home that I am suddenly seeking with such intensity.