In the last week or so, someone posted a note on the Facebook page for our little island in the Salish Sea. “Tell us the story of how you came to be here.”
How did we get here? That is such a big question, considering how far back we have to go to untangle our own little thread of fate from fabric of life.
OK, we can fast forward a bit from the Big Bang and the first billion years of our single-celled ancestors. But even being born, to our particular parents at a particular place and point in time seems miraculous. That is our first stroke of luck. And from then, all the occurrences – remembered and not – that shape the path to today.
The responses to the bulletin board query were fun to read. From the practical to the romantic, the varied stories helped explain the assemblage of characters we see on our rambles to the farmer’s market and the blink-and-miss-it “downtown” area.
How did I get here? Where to start. I guess it makes sense to start with the early years with the family, where we are kind of a guest star in the comedy or drama that unfolds. One could say that I was the product of poor judgement, which puts me in a not-too-exclusive club! My parents continue to assure me that they are quite thankful to have been given such a surprise. Since all my adventures are contingent on that starting point I will extend my gratitude back to them.
Beyond that, I think that much of my life was driven from one fact: my father loves the forest. Oh, and he is a gypsy. If he had been the settled sort, things would have probably turned out much differently. However, following work (or perhaps it might be better to say finding great places to hunt and fish where he could support a family) we ended up in the Burns Lake area and the place that the word “home” still evokes for me.
We moved away from our little shack in the country a couple of times, but its gravitational field pulled us back. The last move home happened after I had finished grade nine (freshman year, dear US readers). I wasn’t too pleased to leave my friends behind after a year of learning to fit in to a new school and community. And of course I was convinced that my life was ruined and the bad feelings were going to last forever.
My life of course wasn’t actually ruined, and as luck would have it I was in the place I needed to be. About a year later when I met the woman who truly changed my life. I say woman because that is what she was on a relative basis. Marginally on the basis of age, but on a maturity level – well that kind of goes without saying. Thirty-two years later it is still true.
I will follow our joint threads again in a moment, but have to back up a bit. After college, my dad took a job in Gold River, which was then a more thriving forestry town. It was there he became acquainted with Mike who was cut from a similar cloth. Mike is funny, practical, and wild about the outdoors. Dad and Mike have been friends ever since.
How Mike and his lovely wife came to own a cabin on Hornby Island is its own tale filled with serendipity, but in any case, when it came time for Valerie and I to take a honeymoon with the little time and no money we had before starting university, they offered us a stay at their cabin.
En route to the cabin on Hornby Island, we missed the last ferry. Stuck on Denman Island, we stayed at Fillongley Park. Oblivious of the cosmic foreshadowing, we slept on a section of our rolled up futon in the back of the truck, surrounded by our worldly possessions.
The forest factored largely in the next almost three decades of our lives, as I kicked my false starts to the curb (Accounting? Mathematics? Chemistry?) and acknowledged that I too loved the forest. So forestry school, forestry jobs, and a return to our “home” town where we put down roots. That is too simple a version of the story but let’s call it good. In any case, my brief and reluctant apprenticeship with my father was a big contributor to the path I found myself on, with Valerie as the more than equal partner at my side.
Last fall, I found myself “baching it” with Dusty the dog in the same Hornby Island cabin, a picturesque location to wait out the plague and the opening of the US border. I figured soon I would be able to drive Dusty over the line and we could rejoin Valerie who had flown south with the Canada geese.
Part of our Island adventures included looking at properties for sale in the region. Like grocery shopping while hungry and without a list (hello salt and malt vinegar potato chips!), I made what turned out to be a critical mistake(?). The very first property I looked at was way over budget, but hey – it’s only looking, right?
It captivated me. On one side the Salish Sea glistened and rolled, framed by rugged Douglas-fir veterans, and on the other the snowcapped peaks of the Beaufort Range smiled over shore and white pine, Douglas-fir and grand fir reaching up from the gravelly veneer of the adjacent clearing. The house itself was not the tiny modern box we sought, but was just so dang pretty.
I was smitten and was sure that Valerie would be too. So now I write these words looking out at the Salish Sea through the windows of this pretty abode. When the tide recedes a little we will step onto the shoreline below, and again over the little estuary, and walk along the spit of Fillongley Park, further weaving the threads of this story together.
There are many other fateful points that I know could unravel this tale in very profound ways, with heartrending loss. As discussed in my articles about happiness, “negative visualization” can be a powerful tool. When the alternate versions of our life have big holes left by the absence of those we love, we hold them – and the present – with more gratitude. Such feelings of serendipity make it a wonderful life, indeed.