Walk About

We begin from home.

We begin from home.

Our plan was to walk across Ireland this summer but it turned out not to be the right year to do it. So we settled for a “staycation” which is no hardship here on Vancouver Island in the summer.

Then one day in June, my husband came down the stairs, “I have a great idea,” he said, “We’ll go ‘walk about’ right where we live!” And he laid out the plan for me. I was cautiously excited. The concept was amazing but did I have the strength to do it? The route was about 90 kilometres.
I wrote friends and family along our route:

Dear ones,

We are planning a walk about the week of July 22nd. Our route will take us 5 days and goes from our home in Shawnigan Lake via Mill Bay ferry to Brentwood Bay, on to Swartz Bay and over to Fulford on Saltspring Island, up to Cusheon Lake, then on to Vesuvius, back to the main island , over to Glenora and then home along the Cowichan Valley Trail.Our hope is to visit you along the way!Are you up for having overnight guests?  Selinde and Jim

The responses were almost immediate and enthusiastic. Our fate was sealed. We were committed and on a sunny Monday afternoon after drenching the garden, we started out. In our daypacks we had one change of clothes,  books, water, sunscreen, binoculars, swimsuits and a few other little things. Our hats and sturdy shoes were our constant companions for the next five days. We had never walked to Mill Bay and it was a leisurely
1.5 hour walk away. Immediately we were noticing things that the speed of a car simply doesn’t allow you to see. The llamas came close to the fence to
investigate as we stopped to share a water bottle. We discovered a path that parallels the highway allowing us to avoid the noise and fumes. We strolled into Mill Bay feeling very pleased with ourselves.
My cousin’s husband showed up at the marina in his 32 foot sailboat and we spent the next few hours catching the wind across to Brentwood Bay where we cooled off in the pool, enjoyed a delicious meal as the sun set and slept like babies in the cool of a basement guest room.
Tuesday we set off by 8:15 and it was already warm. We envisioned a delightful trail through the woods when we saw  ‘Lochside Trail’ on the map so were willing to trek the extra distance across the peninsula to connect with it but, lo and behold, north of Mt. Newton X Rd, the trail turns out to be a bike lane along the road; no shade, no path, no particular beauty. It was a long 4.5 hours to the ferry terminal in Swartz Bay. But there were delights along the way: an iced latte for one!  Later a mink raced out in front of us to catch a mouse and return just as quickly to the bushes. That was a sight people in cars would never be privy to!
The ferry deposited us on Saltspring Island at Fulford Harbour. We took the more scenic, less trafficked route walking a road that I have driven over many times since I was 4 years old. I recognized many landmarks so there was a familiarity to the experience, yet, there were so many things I’d never seen before.
We were in the groove now. Walking single file, lost in thought and then acutely aware of the surroundings. The smells of hot moss on dry rocks, firs, and wafts of unknown organic matter: the aroma of summer on the gulf islands. The road was pretty hilly and our progress considerably slower than earlier in the day. And suddenly at 5pm, there was rush hour, car after car peopled by single individuals, roaring past us on a previously quiet rural road. We became more alert, stepping off the narrow shoulder into the long grass (and once into stinging nettle!) over and over again. Suddenly this island seemed less of an alternative paradise!
We were tired when we arrived 2 hours later at Cusheon Lake and while I’ve enjoyed many a swim there, this time the water felt like heaven and we luxuriated until the heat finally left our bodies. Our time here with family seemed especially relaxing and enjoyable. Was it because we had walked such a long way to get there that our senses weremore attuned and delighted?
The next day was less strenuous. After a short walk into the town of Ganges, we relaxed over special coffees, reading and looking out over the bay. Then we explored the town, choosing books from an interesting second hand bookstore and retiring to the new library to relax in comfy chairs and read for an hour. After a memorable lunch at Barb’s Buns (halibut taco salad – I highly recommend it and have been dreaming about it!) we walked up the island to Vesuvius, stopping for a foot wash/talcum rub and a read/rest halfway at Portlock Park. Our friends greeted us warmly as we strolled through the gate at exactly the arranged time. Drinks in their beautiful garden and a swim in the nearby bay preceded a delicious meal with homemade wine and great conversation. Does food always taste so good when you’ve had a day of exercise and meditation!?
Up early and off to catch the 8:05am ferry to Crofton on the main island. We hadn’t planned it but we managed to walk in the shade almost the whole 3.5 hours to Duncan. Although we were walking along main roads, the traffic was minimal and the views were wonderful. Again, another lazy middle of the day in town, and at 3pm, off for an hour walk in the hot sun to Alderlea Farm in Glenora where our friends run a CSA (community support agriculture) program where we pick up our delicious fresh veggies for 24 weeks a year.
After shower and amazing farm dinner, we joined Katy and John at one of their growing spaces to pick tomatoes and cukes for the program’s pick up selection the following day. Our hosts were still working in the kitchen, preparing for a Cafe day when Jim and I had to beg off and head to bed. Those farmers sure work hard!
Our last day started with a solid farm breakfast. We headed out along the country road to find the entrance to the Cowichan Valley Trail. Fully shaded, we walked in silence over the softer ground for several hours. At one point, near a boggy area we came upon the sign:
I was just considering the possibility of this when I noticed a moving black mass. At closer look, the path was covered in small (one inch) black frogs making their way as a group to the other side. A snake lay in the shallow water with its head out and it’s belly bulging, too lazy to move.  When we arrived at the Kinsol Trestle, our conversation turned for the first time to things in the future. We were shifting gears. Needing a rest but thinking “home’s just around the corner,” we continued to walk to the where the trail meets the road and then along the road in the hot early afternoon until we finally arrived home, 5 hours after we had set out.
I had one rather large blister; Jim, many more of varying sizes but we ended the trip on a high. We felt strong, adventurous and peaceful. Does the continued massaging of your feet as you walk provide a sense of well-being? Does the slower pace of moving through space contribute to a slower mental pace?
All I know is that we’re already talking about our next “walk about.” It was the most fun, and least expensive, adventure we’ve had….. since last summer!
Walk About. It’s about staying local, taking it slow and getting in shape.


Kid's Jacket March 2013On Art, Creativity, Assumptions and Fear

Seven years ago, when our sons were 17 and 21, we ended up in New York for a short holiday together.

Jim and I decided to let our sons choose what we would do and where we would go as both he and I had been to New York on numerous occasions, alone and together.

One morning our youngest, who was into heavy metal told us about an art gallery he wanted to visit. Off the beaten path, it took us a while to get there. As we walked, our son enthused about this great artist whose work we were about to see.

When we finally found the place, it was simply a numbered door on a side street with a small sign saying “Sacred Chapel of Mirrors.” It cost money to enter so I decided then and there not to go in. After all, I thought, if the art appealed to my son, I probably wouldn’t like it.  I wasn’t a particular fan of the music he liked and so assumed I would feel the same way about his taste in art. Not one to waste money, I said,  “I’ll go and have coffee round the corner and you can come get me when you’re done.”  My husband chimed in, “Yeah, I’ll go with your mother; you two go ahead.”

Our son did not hide his disappointment. “C’mon!” he pleaded, “This guy is amazing. You’ve got to come up and see his stuff.”
Surprised that this was as much about sharing the experience with us as seeing the show himself,  I knew enough to be a “good sport.”  Little did I know this was not a sacrifice I was making!
We climbed the stairs, paid our money, and entered the Sacred Chapel of Mirrors, the gallery of artist Alex Grey. His work was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It spoke to me and frankly, it blew my mind. The next two hours were an explosion of colour, energy and creativity as we ooh-ed and ahh-ed our way through the gallery.

In the gift shop, our sons had the opportunity to chat with Alex and his wife/fellow artist Allyson Grey who went out of their way to encourage them  to pursue their art.  We left energized, awed and inspired. “See,” my son said, “I told you.” I put my arm around him, “Yes,” I agreed, “You were absolutely right.”

We bought a book that day: The Mission of Art by Alex Grey. I pulled it off the shelf just last week and began reading randomly: “Wise artists respond to the call of creation by peering into their own hearts.” pg. 18

After decades of abstinence, last year I started knitting, weaving and sewing again. This time round, I am interested in my own creative process as well as looking forward to a fine finished project.

An idea comes to me out of the blue. I get excited. Then I start the worrying. I start backing away from my vision and think “Maybe I should follow a pattern so I get something that turns out OK,” which is the fabric arts’ version of “Paint by Number.”

But I forge ahead, into the unknown, trying to bring into reality the vision in my head. What I notice is that every time I hit a hurdle, a moment when I’m not sure how to proceed,  the automatic reaction is: “Who can help me with this?” This is not to say that there aren’t times to ask for help, but when my default is to defer to others, that’s a problem. Am I willing to forego my own creativity in deference to someone else’s?

For the little jackets I’ve been designing, weaving, knitting and sewing there probably has been as much time put into tea drinking and pounding the path as there has been into the actual project. With each new challenge,  my fearful side blurts out: “Oh no, what’s the ‘right’ way to do this step?” and “What if I wreck the jacket after all this work!?” and “I can’t do this, it’s too hard!” These are all excuses to try and avoid what I imagine of as “failure.” You see, I was educated well. I’m afraid to do things “wrong,” to make a “mistake,” and to get anything less than an “A.” The following default can tempt me: “Maybe it’s better to do nothing, than to do something wrong.”

I try and listen to these blurts with kindness and humour because fighting/avoiding/condemning this worried young part of me just increases its anxiety to be heard. So, I take my scared little kid out walking so it can breathe in the air and feel the sunshine (sometimes), and relax enough to hear , “This is not a crisis.” The fearful part of me needs to be reassured over and over that all I’m doing is having fun, trying something new, learning and creating. I’m not trying anything dangerous. Not yet, at least!

Usually a walk is all we need. After exercise and fresh air, my comforted kid part is ready for a nap. Then I can settle down and continue working until she’s startled awake when I face a new challenge or problem, and she shouts: “We don’t know how to do this!” and all the attendant feelings flood back in.
So when you see the most recent jacket I’ve finished, there’s more to it than meets the eye. There’s the object itself, but also, sewn and knitted in are a thousand decisions and moment by moment experiences. Imbedded are fears and visions faced and embraced.  A little kid’s jacket with huge learnings!

I’m grateful to my son for insisting I see the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors that day. I’m glad I accepted his invitation, that I allowed my assumptions to be challenged. And I’m blessed by the unexpected support I received this week from an artist I met years ago. I’m already pumped about my idea for the next jacket!