2018 has been an adventure for us. Selling our condo, living with relatives for 2 months (eternally grateful for the hospitality and getting to make up for all the years of not seeing enough of a dear sister), travelling all over British Columbia like a couple of gypsies in a Westfalia, and finally buying our fixer-upper house in Vanderhoof and starting the ground-up restoration … literally. Somewhere in there we have found a little time for our writing and a smidgen of time for visiting with mother and other relatives and experiencing small-town life, northern style. We sincerely hope that 2019 will bring more of all that to us. We make plans, but life rarely follows them. Like I said, it’s an adventure.
To those dear friends we left behind, to new friends and followers in the blogoshere, to far-flung family we don’t see often enough and to the ones who have always been dear but are now also near . . .
Or more accurately, today we make history! October 17, 2018, recreational marijuana is now legal in Canada. Wherever you stand on the issue, I’m just pointing out the fact. And then I’m saying that I think this is an appropriate move in the right direction. But that’s all I’m saying (On that subject. For now!)
Today is also one year since we lost Gord Downie, a Canadian treasure. Not just an amazing talent, but a truly remarkable human who took every opportunity to throw his full weight behind issues of social justice that he believed in. He brought considerable attention to the travesty of residential schools in Canada. We need to make right with the survivors of that horror, we need to take a very close look and see how something this awful could come about, and then we need to make sure that something like this can never happen again to anyone in our great country. Because I think we can be a truly great country if we commit ourselves to being great for each and every citizen. That’s my opinion and this is my blog, so I get to spout it. You can disagree with me (or agree!) in the comments. But let’s be polite – this is Canada, after all!
(I have a great Tragically Hip story of my own, but I wrote it and lost it … I’ll rewrite as a post some time!)
Less earth moving, but still important to me on this day, we gave SweetEsther a good and thorough scrub and once-over, winterized and parked her for the winter. As we scrubbed away the bug guts, wildfire ash, and tar splatters of the summer, we talked about what we could do over the winter. And the consensus is that we need to work hard now on the house renos, get those finished early enough so we can spend the spring getting the Westy pimped out for Summer 2019. We have parts waiting for installation, and plans to work on the lighting, upholstery and replace tables, engine rebuild (hopefully!) But all of that will have to wait until the snow falls and subsequently melts … until then, we plan and dream. And reno. And explore life in a small northern town. All part of the adventure!
Eating chocolate for breakfast may be one of the early signs of looming depression. Not clinically recognized, I’m sure, but I feel the anecdotal evidence would support my hypothesis. I didn’t technically have chocolate for breakfast, it was more like with breakfast, so I’m probably still OK.
Dragged myself out of bed at 6am this morning, after 4 solid hours of sleep (sarcasm) because lying there won’t result in more sleep, it just leaves my brain running wildly. Running brains are better spent on blogs where they can be contained within the parameters of a 300 word (give or take a few) post.
What I’m really doing here is stalling. Every day there are more things to do in this house than time or energy to do them. And none of them are ever the things I planned to do. Rarely are they the things I want to do. Yesterday I went out to the van to search for missing receipts and I was temporarily transported by the smell of an old Westy. It’s not a particularly pleasant smell, but I love it. I love it because it conjures thoughts of the ocean, of winding roads and open roads, of camping in the woods and hiking up to thundering waterfalls, of bird calls and new friends every day and dewy mornings and road-trip music …. it’s a smell that calls to my gypsy soul. I wanted to just jump in, start her up and go. Just go! Anywhere that SweetEsther could take me. Back to the ocean, or the mountains, or the desert.
Of course, living in a Westfalia has it’s issues. Not unlike this house, it’s old, it smells weird, and it’s terribly small. Yet I long for my Westy time, I think of it with fondness. Maybe some day I will get past the loneliness of this place, the exhaustion and hopelessness that this old house entails for me. Maybe someday I’ll walk into a grimey old house with a dirt cellar and I’ll breath it in and remember this place, this adventure with fondness. Maybe I’ll even long for it! One can hope.
But for now, I have my tea in my new favourite Salvation Army Store mug and I’m going to go light the pellet stove for the first time (because it’s wicked cold this morning!) and then I will carry on.
(I’m curious if anyone else ever has fond memories and warm feelings elicited by less-than-pleasant smells. Or is this just another anomaly of me? Feel free to share in the comments and make me feel less weird!)
Sometime Tuesday morning, as the coffee is poured….
“It’s a beautiful day…sunny…warm. Shame not to be out in it.”
“Yep. But I guess it’s down to the cellar … still a lot of work down there.”
“Hm. And it really does need to be done. Of course, we need to replace the front doors before it gets too cold outside, too.”
“We don’t even have doors yet! Are you saying we should go buy doors today instead?”
“No. Just sayin’… “
“Cause I think you’re right, we probably should drive into Prince George for doors before SweetEsther goes into storage for the winter.”
“That’s a convincing argument, and it sounds right to me. But driving to PG twice in one week?”
“But this time in the Westfalia!”
“But it’s not for fun. Not like playing hooky or anything.”
“No, or course not! This is just to get doors, the responsible job to do today. And the van is the best way to bring them home.”
“Right. This is about being grownups and making the responsible choices with our reno time. For sure.”
Jump in van. Breath deeply of the old Westy smell. Feel the rumble as her 36-year-old 4-cyclinder engine clumsily comes to life once again. Turn up the tunes (hello FM 95.9 the GOAT!) and settle in for a long and peaceful drive through some of the most beautiful autumn vistas. Everything is better when we’re on SweetEsther-time!
Sometimes you have to stop the dirty grueling work and take a day to snuggle a baby. It’s good for the soul.
I’ve been reflecting on the choices we’ve made since selling our condo in Surrey. I’ve been saying that I had no regrets because it all works out in the end, that the best adventures were born of the more impulsive decisions, the riskier options. I stand by that statement, right up until we decided to buy this house. This may have been our first actual mistake.
That said, it’s still a house with huge potential. Our plans for it are still awesome. It just doesn’t fit into our original live-the-dream plan in any way, shape or form and because of that, we’ve had to make some compromises, to give some things up.
One of those things I had to resign was taking SweetEsther up to Northern Alberta for the Klassen family reunion this weekend. The van was in no shape for that trip and neither were we after spending days digging out and cribbing up the cellar, a job that absolutely had to be done this week. It’s a whole thing and it is what it is, and I didn’t even know it was important to me until this weekend. But still, I was feeling it.
And then the opportunity to babysit my niece’s little one came up and my first thought was YES! and my second thought was ‘my house is not fit for a baby yet!’ But that’s just the thing, it won’t be ready for a long time yet and getting to snuggle babies was part of what I was looking forward to in this move. It’s what I really wanted to do. The world won’t end if I take a day off to do this, to connect with this amazing little person and refresh my soul a little. So we rocked and we snuggled and we giggled and we read a story and played the guitar (I played, Randy added impromptu percussion, and baby rocked out. So cute!) and then we rocked & snuggled some more. I did what I really wanted to do for a day, and you know what, I only felt better for it!
I’m still feeling like this house was not our best choice, I’m still not thrilled about all the ramifications of it, but it’s done and I do believe this little house has some things it can teach me over the next year. Things about myself, things about life and what’s most important. Oh so many things to learn.
I hope there are lot’s of puppies and babies and visits and music and story writing in that process . . . who knows! Me and my ugly little house are going to be pretty tight for the winter, and hopefully in the spring, we will both emerge a better version of ourselves. I know she already has a better, stronger foundation. I feel just a tiny bit stronger too!
Last summer we took SweetEsther to the west side of Vancouver Island, Uclulet and Tofino, to be exact. We don’t surf, but we sure loved the laid-back vibe over there! We had a fantastic time, my bicycle accident not-withstanding. Oh yes, I took a mighty tumble on one of the crazy challenging hills that are literally everywhere in that area. I could go into it, but it’ll suffice to say there was an ambulance ride to Tofino and a crap-load of painkillers of various types that made our last night of camping quite interesting. The bike (stupid heavy beast that I hated anyway) was finished and I had no regrets about that! And while I am SO grateful that there were no broken bones or serious concussion, I did sustain a fair bit of bodily damage that I am still affected by even today. That said, I still wanted a bike this summer!
She’s a sweet little butter-yellow cruiser. Only the second bike I’ve ever owned brand new. She did about 1,000 miles on the front of the van this summer and we never did a bit of biking on the whole trip! How crazy is that? So yesterday, after we had worked hard cleaning up and doing things we must do at the house, we took our bikes for their first ride.
In the haze
of the forest fire smoke that has our small town socked in, we strapped on our helmets and took the easy paths that start in our neighbourhood, crossing the creek twice before delivering us back home. And we had the entire route to ourselves since no one else was stupid enough to go out in that smoky-pea-soup air….bonus!
I’d be lying if I said I had no fear. I’d be lying if I said it all felt completely natural and that I wasn’t nervous. I won’t lie. But I rode and I feel amazing for having done it. I’m going to get her a basket and a bell and fenders – I may even give her a kick-ass name. I’m going to get brave enough to ride to the post office to pick up my mail, or all the way across town to the Drive Thru for a coffee. I’m going to pop her onto SweetEsther’s bike rack and take her along camping on the Labour Day long weekend — this time, I’m actually going to ride my bicycle!
I’m told this (Saturday, July 21) is day 10 of our odyssey. My husband tells me this and I choose to just believe him because, honestly, I’ve lost track of time. (This morning I realized I had screwed up my vitamins seriously, but I’m not going to worry about it. I had 14 days worth, it’ll even itself out in the end.)
We are camped at Klahanie RV Park in Squamish, BC. Randy is cleaning the dinner dishes and I am writing – we decided that we would alternate writing/internet days so we both get a chance to post (providing the wifi works!) Today is my day. Day 10. Saturday. I’m trying to stay focused.
This morning we left Port Hardy and after a brief interlude in Coombs (Goats on the Roof. Seriously, you have to check this place out!) we caught the ferry in Nanaimo, headed for Vancouver, BC. Something unexpected happened to me as we climbed back into our Westy to disembark the ferry…I felt a real wave of sadness. It felt like I was going home, but the West Coast is not home anymore. I felt anchorless, adrift, and longing. None of the friends we had hoped to connect with here were available. We both felt bummed, neither one of us saying anything, but it was obvious.
Then as were driving off the ferry, Randy suggests ‘maybe we should go to Squamish.’ And he didn’t have to ask me twice. I’d never driven the Sea to Sky highway before and that’s kind of become my thing, places I’ve never been before, things I’ve never done. What a beautiful drive! I mean, every inch of this highway is breathtaking – mountains, trees, water. The view from a Westfalia is like nothing I’ve ever experienced; you sit high and the windscreen is huge, so you almost feel like you’re just out there in the middle of whatever you see.
We found a great campsite, just the perfect balance of seclusion and amenities for us today. We claimed our spot and then went across the highway to hike up to Shannon Falls – crowded with tourists, but we were feeling pretty good by then and nothing was getting to us. Even SweetEsther being down a litre of oil, whatever. I cooked dinner, Randy cleaned, I wrote (writing) while Randy set (sets) up the campsite for a perfect picture…..we’re having fun, we’re staying in the moment, and looking forward to the rest of our adventure.
We have a plan, we have a loose schedule, I also know that when we have veered from the plan and made navigational changes or stops on the fly, that we have had a lot of fun. We’ve ended up in places we hadn’t previously considered and I’ve loved all of those moments. And in just a few more days, we will be back in Vanderhoof. We will pay the money, sign the papers, and we will have a home again. But for now, SweetEsther is home, and this moment is enough. I will try to remember the past fondly, I will look to the future, but I will be in the present moment and cherish each one!
(I have some pictures, but I haven’t been able to get them to upload. Might add them later if I get the chance.)