Tag Archives: Gulf Islands

O Canada!

Slip away for two weeks and what happens? My dear, dear, President Obama loses his mind and threatens air strikes over Syria.

We keep returning to Canadian waters in our boat. The goal this time was to go beyond The Puget Sound, through The Gulf Islands, up the Straight of Georgia, and into Desolation Sound. In speaking to my father, I called it our “destiny” when what I meant was destination. But I don’t know; maybe it is our destiny?


Located between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island, in particular, has a distinctive history. In the mid 1800’s ex-slaves from Missouri who had made it to California came up from San Francisco at the invitation of Sir James Douglas, the first provincial governor of British Columbia. Here the British granted all the rights denied them by the United States: the right to vote, to become part of the local militia, to homestead and own property. Some of their descendants are established there today.

Then in the 1960’s and 70’s, American draft dodgers began arriving on Salt Spring and once again the island opened its arms. Again, many stayed and are among the artists, musicians, farmers, and small business owners contributing to the quality of life there today.

Are they ready for another wave of American ex-pats?

I don’t want to come home if we have to go to war. With all the work there is to do, we have to protest this now too?

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Away, Away

“…. And as a nap slowly steals her away, she feels herself engulfed in a wave of absolute calm. She shuts her eyes. Drifts off, untroubled, everything clear, and radiant, and all at once.” Khaled Hoseini, And the Mountains Echoed

I am on my back on the deck and my eyes are closed. The boat is Desolation Sound bound, inching through the Puget Sound, Gulf Islands, and up the Straight of Georgia. I feel like I’m living in an Annie Dillard novel, illustrated every few miles on shore by Edward Hopper lighthouses, the only structures around. My husband tells me dolphin are leaping in our wake when I nap. That, he thinks, will keep me from sleeping. What he doesn’t know is I may be dreaming of whales. 

As we make our way a sailboat motors by named “Breeze.” Moon jellyfish are pulsing beneath us, mountain peaks rise rounded, pointed, and tilting like witches’ hats, and Crayola white clouds as drawn by children. Otherwise it’s trees, trees, trees forevermore—a landscape that’s all-preserved, all-good, except when you think about bears. Whenever I step ashore, I think about bears a lot.

When I was young and growing up Catholic, I thought the ideal way to die would be in my sleep, in church. This required some practice in falling asleep during sermons. Remember when nearly every elderly person used to “pass away,” as they said, “in their sleep”? Lately everyone seems to die of specific causes, and so I was almost pleased to hear of someone dying in her sleep. Since that strikes me as a simple, peaceful and painless way to go, it’s good to know it can still happen.

I don’t need the church now, but I do need my sleep, day and night, more than ever. I am a napper. There, I’ve admitted it.

I had to help persuade my dad at eighty-something, still steeped in Protestant Work Ethic, into napping. “It’s alright, dad. Think of naps as prayers.” Does he know what a running start I had on him?

Napping and life go hand in hand for me. Just as in boating when we shove away from the shore–and leave it all behind, I love flying above the cloud cover, when it’s hard to imagine a country down there with all it’s configurations of land and water, all its human strives and heartbreaks. Away, away–apparently I am drawn to that.

Stretched out on my back on the deck, I could be anyone, anywhere, any age.


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