Saturday first thing in the morning, the instant we got Angelina’s negative PCR test results, we were already packed and ready to go to Victoria for the day! We drove the 1h23 minutes south towards the province’s capital city.
We first stopped off in Duncan, my hometown, to see our family house. It was strange to see our then brand new house run down in an old neighbourhood. When we lived there it felt amazing to live in such an active neighbourhood with kids everywhere riding bikes, playing ball; now, many homes are sadly neglected with overgrown bushes and furniture on the front lawn. I found the cul-d-sac I learned to ride my bike on and way down Herd Road my mother’s friend Gina’s farm which is now a large winery, and as we drove round I named all my old friends’ homes. When we passed our family bakery storefront and saw the dive it has become did make me sad. I remembered riding my bike to work in the mornings, past my junior high school, past the McDonalds… bittersweet memories. I could even feel the bumps in the road in my memory as I tirelessly peddled on the sidewalk in the early morning hours…
Next was Victoria’s Chinatown and we walked through the little streets and stopped in at Chubby Dumpling for Korean dumplings. It has been a long time since we ate authentic Asian cuisine and enjoyed our lunch. Victoria has grown-up since I have been gone, and it rivals the feel of Cole Harbour with boat docks, great restaurants, ocean view apartments and an active lifestyle to boot. Next we explored the downtown core and walked along the water. Not too many tourists since COVID-19, but it was nice to see the restaurants full of locals enjoying the summer sun. Every street corner has musicians playing for their supper, but not your ordinary street people variety but professional street performers making a killing on a Saturday. We saw a full on band on one corner ripping it up rock and roll style, then a harpist singing a beautiful folk song in full attire, the next a young boy singing a high soprano opera with bone chilling falsettos with dad overlooking his earnings… Many people gave $5 and I counted over a hundred from just one song! Wow! As we sat for dinner a young boy, maybe 15/16 strummed his electric guitar and played Tracy Chapman, Nervana, Red Hot Chili Peppers but all twisted with a little blues, a little of the kid’s own take on the classics. So enjoyable. Alfonz was saying how cool the vibe was in downtown core as we enjoyed our wings and appies during happy hour. We were sitting in the this authentic Irish Pub, packed full of loud and laughing peeps, eating and drinking like the end of the world was near; no one held back. Big smiles everywhere you looked. There was this moment when everything slowed down and we remembered why we came home. It is easier here. The things you know for sure that will always be here. The things you can count on. The server who was so nice, the food that was so good, the streets that were so clean and I knew I was finally home.
After a few hours of walking in the city we made our way to Beacon Hill Park. I used to spend lots of time with my brother and grandparents here, and we retraced some of the old stomping grounds. I showed the children the ocean up close, and it was just as I remember; windy and that lovely smell of salty air. Not too many along the long rocky beaches with driftwood for seating; such wide open spaces and people few and far between. But you knew the parking lot was full, but where was everyone. The magnitude of space is something I truly have forgotten, the range and strength of the water everywhere you look, the large blue sky above, the warm rocky path below your feet… My cup overflows with gratitude.
There are breathtaking views straight across Vancouver Island; crashing waves, serene tranquil landscapes, grand mountainous bumpy horizons and thick treed forests all around. It is stunning. I missed this. I didn’t even know I missed it until I was standing in front of it. I felt so tiny in the grand scheme of it all, a brief moment in the magnitude around me. It was comforting to know my place, that no matter what happens, no matter what choices I have made, everything will be alright, everything is exactly as it should be. Connecting to nature is something more and more people forget about. As we plug in, watch NetFlix, text and email away, we forget that there is something so much bigger than ourselves just outside the door, a connection to each other and all living things that make up our planet. I feel apart of it all sitting in the sun, listening to the lapping waves at my feet and feeling the strong wind in my hair… I simply am.
I searched for kids like myself as a kid swimming in the Ocean or Cowichan Lake, riding their bikes across the town, hanging out at the seven-eleven but I saw noone. I did peek over the edge of a bridge just passed Duncan towards Nanaimo and saw 4 indigenous kids swimming in the river below. I thought, that was me as a kid; climbing trees and running free with our gang of friends. I rode my bike all over my town, knew every square inch of it. It was mine. I have to wonder if today’s kids feel the same about where they live. I guess they are just living in different times.