Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Rondelet

for Real Toads
A Rondelet, of sorts

They're asking me to rhyme.
I used to do it all the time,
but they're asking me to rhyme
now, when my faculties are taxed,
they're asking me to rhyme.

(Okay. I did it. Sigh.)

Wild Woman, on Love Among the Aging

[image from google]

Wild Woman
doesnt remember from Erotica.
It was all so long ago.

At her age, when people get together,
there is such a clattering of walkers
and clicking of false teeth knocking together
that it is daunting,
and we scuttle back to our recliners
in dismay.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Language of Chapatis

[image from Google]
I went to clean for my little lady who lost her husband recently. Between her mobility issues and my impaired mobility, her minimal English and my total lack of Farsi, my hands and feet that try to do what her hands and feet can no longer do, we clean her house with much gesticulation, pointing, smiling and laughing as she tries to make herself understood, and I doltingly and slowly comprehend.

"SHACK! SHACK!" she cries, pointing to the comforters, and I SHACK, as hard as I can, the covers ballooning towards the ceiling, like startled swans.

She chortles, amused at my eagerness to please.

"I like you, Shay-la," she smiles.

I like her, too.

She sits at the table and watches me clean - for company, she is lonely. She says no visitors come now. She asks me if I have a husband. I say "Not since 1972."

"Four children?" she asks, surprised.

"Yes, I raised them all alone."

"You have a pension?" She is wondering why I am cleaning houses at my age.

"Yes. Very small," I tell her.

 "This house too big, now," she shares.  Her husband died just weeks ago.

"Some changes coming?" I ask but, "Too upset, too upset," she tells me, waving dismissively. She cannot talk about what will happen next. So hard, to lose her husband, her home, her entire life, all within the same year.

I tell her not to go to the trouble of making me a chapati today, she is tired, it is too much work.

"No, no, it's okay," she tells me. "You're my sister."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my true pay. Not the $37.50 I made today, polishing her house till it gleamed like it did when she was a young wife. That is what keeps me going back, tired and aching as I am. It is that smile, that shared glance, the laughter, the kinship of being women, doing what needs to be done, through the hard times and the fine. It is our sisterhood, the same the world over.

I fall in love with these little ladies. And I know I am bringing them more than cleaning, when I knock on their doors.

Beautiful Valley

[My sister, Lori, in Cherryville, great horseback riding country}

has reached a plateau
from which she can gaze
far across
a beautiful valley.

There is room
under this expansive sky
to dream golden dreams.

There is enough space
all around
to relax one's shoulders
and breathe
the breath she needs,
to deeply inhale
the smell of sage and

She feels like
spreading her wings
and swooping across
the land below,
like a golden eagle,
like a shooting star,
like a caged-up bird
longing to be
where her kinfolk are.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Prayer Beads

[image from google]

Small baby clouds
scattered across the heavens,
golden, smiling Buddha-sun
climbing up over the mountain -
even the traffic has fallen silent,
the better to appreciate
the loveliness of the morning,
as summer slowly tiptoes away.

I put on this day
like a prayer shawl,
and count my beads
of gratitude.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Another World

[image from google]

Yesterday I watched the televised state funeral for Canada's beloved Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party, who recently succumbed to cancer. I rarely watch this sort of event, but Jack touched the hearts of all of us, no matter our politics. He modeled a highly civil, positive and "for the people" attitude that we responded to, so tired are we of all the vitriolic posturing and agenda-driven politics which have become the norm.

Two days before he died, Jack took the time to write a letter to all Canadians, ending with these words, which sum up the way Jack lived his life, and also the way he died:

 "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic, and we'll change the world."

One of the eulogies spoken in his honor included the following quote from one of my favorite authors and activists, Arundhati Roy, who wrote the novel, The God of Small Things, as well as the remarkable The Algebra of Infinite Justice, a collection of essays penned in the days following 9/11. The series of essays  related historical context we in North America had been heretofore blissfully (and, at times, willfully) unaware of, and which Ms. Roy considered led to the events of that terrible day. She warned the proposed "War on Terror" was ill-considered, an outlook with which I whole-heartedly agreed.

Ms. Roy addressed those attending the World Social Forum of 2003 with these encouraging words, which were aptly repeated at Jack's send-off:

Another world
not only
she is
on her way.
On a quiet day,
I can hear her

The outpouring of emotion at Jack's loss shows us just how much we long for that better, more civil, more equitable and just world. How we long for politics for the people not the pocketbook. How we long for rational, reasonable dialogue, not oppositional posturing, which gets nothing done. As speaker after speaker told us yesterday, the thousands there in person, the throng outside on the street, and all of us at home in our living rooms:

"We can do it. Jack showed us how!"

Friday, August 26, 2011

Traveler Takes Another Journey

[image from google -]

Traveler is readying herself
to make another journey.
Her kit bag of memories
is stuffed beyond reason.
It nourishes her well,
but weighs more heavily
on her shoulders
with every passing season.

Her feet are moving forward
but her head keeps looking back.
There is knowledge from those times
that she still lacks.

She wants to find the spot
where the trail ahead
grew so much shorter
than the long way she had come.
The time when hopes and dreams,
songs left unsung,
stopped circling 'round,
slid into the past,
and Presence
became her only
standing ground.

The closer she gets
to taking leave of this world,
the more beautifully it shines.
How will she ever
close her eyes on it
one last time?

And those perfect
puffy clouds
against blue sky?
How they draw
her wondering 
bemused eye,
like a child's painting
of perfection,
each one
more lovely
than the last,
as the seasons
turn and change,
and far too quickly
hasten past.

The trouble with
this journey?
It has
an ultimate  destination,
she an unwilling passenger
who wants to keep on riding
beyond the final station.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We Live in Beauty and Mystery

California Ink sent me this this morning, and the beauty of it blew me away. I am not very tekky, but somehow this thing seems to have flown onto my page, however unwieldy. I am not going to try to get it to fit my page - am thrilled it is ON it, not going to get picky:)

I'm sharing it  to remind us that, every moment of every day, we live, each one of us, in incredible beauty and mystery.

Keep watching the sky - it's a total light show!

Please install latest Flash Player to run Solar System Scope

Wild Woman Looks in the Mirror

Poets United Think Tank prompt was: use the third letter of your name to create a poem.
My letter is "E".  Given the title, a one-word poem should suffice :


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Shawl of Leafy Gold and Green

[image from visual]

The late afternoon sun
touches the leafy branches of  green
with a hint of autumn gold,
and I wrap the fading day around me
like the lightest wisp of chiffon
around the shoulders
of a slender young woman,
heading out for an evening
of walking with her young man.

Sitting on my porch swing,
the early evening
cloaks me
like a warm gray knitted shawl
tucked around an old bent smiling woman
sitting by the fire.

I watch the stars come out
in a sky I have never seen before,
because it is this night's sky,
striated with banks of fluffed pink clouds
and streaks of salmon sunset.

And I wonder
what was the defining moment
when evening changed
from being a time of going out
full of hope and romance and promise,
to staying in and enjoying the comforts of home
until an early bedtime.

I remember
as if it were last week
standing under a mimosa tree
loaded with blossoms,
one summer night
when I was seventeen,
a gallant young man picking one of the blooms,
handing it to me with a flourish, saying,
with the sweetest smile,
"Poor man's orchid."

One of the most beautiful
I ever received.

Who knew
from that moment to this
would pass by
in a nanosecond?

I can still smell the fragrance
of that tree's blossoms,
feel the magic of that
youthful summer night,
when life was new
and full of promise,
and every dream was
on its way,
I thought,
to coming true.

So much, back then,
that young girl never knew.

Wild Woman Tries to Multi-task

[Tower of Babel from google images -]

Wild Woman
is a
living in a
multi-tasking world.

When she tries to
step up the pace,
her own brain becomes
a Tower of Babel,
circling around
and around
on itself,
till it spits her out
the other end,

Thank God
for a brand new day
every single morning.

Wild Woman
begins again,
one thing at a time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

When a Warrior Falls

[image from]

Jack Layton, NDP leader, who joyously led the NDP party to Opposition status in the recent election, while fresh from hip surgery and following treatment for prostate cancer, died early this morning, after a sudden reoccurence of cancer less than a month ago. Jack was 61. His open, smiling face and concern for the interests of the Canadian people never faltered. On his last night, he was still talking about the party's direction for autumn. He was a politician people could relate to, with his focus on  the needs of working people,  middle and low income Canadians. I was shocked at the suddenness of his death, as he has always appeared so energized, a happy, positive warrior for the working man.

In the current political climate, his passing is a great loss. Too soon gone, Jack.

When a warrior falls
one remembers
his indomitable spirit
in battle,
(both public and private),
his open face
and outstretched hand,
ignoring the cane in his other hand
as he hopped on and off trains
all along
the campaign trail.
He led his party
to the doors of the legislature
to sit in the House
in opposition,
a great victory,
coming from low-party status.

The flag is flying
at half-mast today,
as we salute
one more warrior,
fallen in the heat of battle.

He fought for the Canadian people
with grace and humor.
He left us
at the top of his game.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Music of the Spheres

[for the RealToads  prompt: Silence
I posted a poem on that theme yesterday,
written when I was young, and decided
I needed to write what silence means to me today.
The source of the quote used in the poem is unknown.
The image is from google :]

When the world walked two by two,
and she alone,
silence felt lonely.
And so the universe set her the task
of loving and enriching

She began to observe
how people seemed to need
a lot of talk and noise
to know they were alive.
And so she listened
more deeply,
to the hum of the planet
and the music of the spheres,
to the way the night sky
seemed, almost, to sing,
and to the way Grandfather Cedar
breathed peace
like he was
straight into
her heart.

She tuned in to the
voice within,
wiser than any outer voice,
but taking far longer
to learn how
to trust.

At some point 
silence came to live inside her,
a vast, interior silence
where there were no words,
no thoughts, no worries,
a time when the sound of the sea
washed all away,
leaving behind only
and joy.

And now she knows
all about
"the silence from which
all music comes".
It is her dearest friend.
Through it, the beautiful
symphony of life
plays like a mellow clarinet
on a summer afternoon,
warm and golden,
counterpoint to
the full brass band
of daily existence,
all inter-woven and living
mellifluously together
in her heart.

Friday, August 19, 2011


[This is a picture prompt entitled "Silence" from the Real Toads site. It brought to mind a poem about Silence I wrote back in 1963, when I was sixteen. It was a turbulent time in my life, emotionally speaking, and my poems then bespeak a deep unhappiness and lack of ease within myself,  typical of adolescent angst, but exaggerated by a sensitive poetic nature, and a painful childhood.]

Punctured by the aged creak of time
Pervades the vague lost hope of day's tomorrow;
Underlined by melodies of sadness,
Haunting, whispering through the years -
A voice -
Hidden in the sound of many voices.
Fearing silence, fearing thought, afraid
To let the sound of silence free the memories again,
I leave it
Dormant in the darkness of some sky,
waiting for the world to sleep,
to ask it in, to let it seep
across the blackened world - to Be.

(Silence -
The remnant of a quietude long centuries ago,
Conceived in some lost thoughtful time and passed along
To hurried, worried, frenzied man
escaping in the midst of confused time
To his haven of forgetfulness,
A dream.)

When Death Comes

He sits in the recliner where he is living out his final days,
in between hospital visits:
head fallen to the side, eyes closed, no strength, any more, to even lift his hands,
oxygen helping him breathe the diminishing breaths of his life.

His body is surrendering to the  process that will
slowly and inexorably shut his system down,
until his last breath carries him into the vortex and away,
beyond the veil that separates this life from the next,
leaving only his chair behind, sitting empty,
to which, this time, he will not return.

She sits in the kitchen, weeping.
She has expended all of her will towards his recovery.
But "there will be no improvement,"
she tells me. "He will not be getting better."
The protection of denial has been stripped away,
her mind  yet unable to grasp the fullness
of the yawning chasm awaiting her:
her husband gone, after thirty years together,
when one hundred would not have been enough,
his passing through the veil
between this world and the unseen,
the absence of that final walking away
down darkened hospital halls
that is now weeks, and perhaps only days,

When death comes,
may his be peaceful:
sweet, gallant man
with only kindness in his heart.
When death comes,
may Allah support
her trembling, fragile, aged body,
so she can bear the burden
of surviving,
and living on without him.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wild Woman Watches TV

[On Vancouver Island, the cable company gave yesterday as the deadline for upgrading to a digital box, if we wanted to continue getting our extra channels. We have been busy, and put it off.]

Wild Woman is on the couch,
flipping through the channels.

Sister comes in, moaning,
"My channels are gone!"

Wild Woman asks,
"How come I'm still getting channels?"

Sister tries to keep a straight face.
"You're getting a message that says
if you want this channel, you need a digital box."


Sister continues, "It's like getting cable,
but you might get a little bored."

More cackles.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Small Voyagers

[book cover from]

Little voyagers on the stormy sea,
the tide brought you in
to spend some time with me,
and so we tarried for a joyous while,
my pleasure to find ways
to make you smile.

The tide swooped in and carried you away.
I had to hide my tears and wave goodbye.
Your journey yours to make, your hopes held high,
I didn't want for you to see me cry.

But yesterday I saw you once again -
those radiant smiles, those happy little-boy grins,
and Baby Girl, a vision all in pink:
my own heart filled with your happiness
to the brink.

The tide, the tide, we journey on the tide,
and sometimes it can be such a bumpy ride.
But radiant days are scattered, too, all through,
and one was yesterday, once more seeing

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Putting On the Morning

[dancing tree spirits from google, and can be seen at]

I put on today

like a garment

of leafy green,

and wave

my bendy boughs

in joy

at the morning sun.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wild Woman Wakes Up

[image from google]

Wild Woman
is feeling

She is awake,
but her head
is not happy
about it.

She hobbles about,
my head, my Head,
my Head!!!
which does little
to help
the situation,
but looks
rather comical.

Head begs to differ
that prone
is not the
optimum position
for Being Awake.

Neck is not happy
It is muttering
and groaning.
Head is so heavy,
and neck is getting tired
of holding it up.

Wild Woman wishes
she could simply
unscrew them both
and set them on a shelf,
so she could
carry on
and get something done.

She remembers her mom
jokingly singing
"With Her Head Tucked
Underneath Her Arm."

That would work, too.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pondering the Mystery

[image from google at]

Standing on her kitchen deck
in the dark,
Wild Woman looks up
at the night sky,
following a comet's arc.
There is a big old
harvest moon
hanging up high,
and she is looking
for meteor showers,
but la luna is too resplendent
to see what else
there might be passing by.

Across the planet,
as she is readying for bed,
a young student is waking,
rising to the day ahead,
focussed on escaping
the poverty that binds him.
He can hear his neighbor
whistling as he cooks, 
and this reminds him
of the struggle and the wonder
with which all life abounds,
struggle and wonder,
striving and marvels,
all around.

All around him, all around her,
disconnected lives are following
their singular trajectories
united with every breath:
the arc from waking to sleeping,
the span from birth to death,
from  unconsciousness  to consciousness,
each heart hearing only
its solitary beating,
any two sometimes - randomly?
fortuitously?- meeting.

Around the planet
the heavenly bodies orbit
celestial skies.
The planet turns and turns,
our days as well,
each of us having our moments
of pondering the how's and why's.

The tiniest molecule lives out
its own peculiar story,
as we do, too,
more thankful
than we're

Saturday, August 13, 2011


[AP photos by Farah Abdi Warsemeh]

Wild Woman weeps
for the
hungry and the
who walk long hot miles
in search
of sheer survival,
while most of the world
politely averts its eyes,
trying to ignore
the stab of conscience
deep within
at the suffering of our kin.

Wild Woman applauds
the efforts of the ngo's,
trying to stem a tide so huge,
one body at a time,
that it must feel like
trying to feed
a ravenous dinosaur
with a tiny teaspoon.
More help
can't come
too soon.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beginner's Heart

Yesterday I read a great quote at Ella's Edge : It is from a horoscope site called Free Will Astrology, moderated by Rob Brezsny, who wrote:

"As much as I love beginner's mind, I advocate an additional discipline : cultivating a beginner's heart."

Wild Woman wonders
why it so often takes
until the last stage
of our lives
to regain the
beginner's heart
with which we
started out.

Photos of my great-grandson Damian, age five, at Rogers Creek Park,
taken by my daughter and his grandma, Lisa Barnes.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

She, and the Song of the Sea

[The Hag by artist Iain Lowe, as seen at]


at the top
of the dunes,
looking out
to sea,
a tall staff
in her left hand,
the wind blowing back
her long and tangled hair,
cape billowing
like it might
take wing.

The skies were gray
and lowering
in spring storm,
the pounding
of the sea
so loud
and wild,
the only other sound
she could hear
was her own

This was her
very first day
in a new land,
and yet she knew
she had
at last
come home.


The day
she left
the sea
she left
her spirit
in the branches
of Grandmother Cedar,
for safe-keeping,
for she
and dreamed
one day
she would
be back.


she hopes,
in some
she's living
the life
she might
have had,
in a one-room cabin
off the grid,
at the edge
of the forest,
the sea
lapping at 
her front door,
within  sight or sound
for twenty miles
or more.

these forests,
and eagles
her mornings awake.

and the
song of the sea
lulls both
her waking
her sleeping

some part of her
will perhaps
live out
her final days,
in deep
the most

Hmmmmmmm. I started this for Poets United's Think Tank prompt: She. But think it might also do for Real Toad's prompt, to take something from An Old Man and the Sea and write a poem. Two birds with one stone!

Poem by Ninotaziz

[Wickanninish Beach at sunset]

Kids, what a lovely surprise I awakened to this morning. Ninotaziz at Poems by Ninotaziz wrote a poem in response to my Love Song to Clayoquot Sound. You can find it here:

That did my tired old heart good. I had an unexpected visit to my beach, first thing this morning.

I will be back after work, to write something. Meanwhile, thank you so much, Ninot, for your beautiful poem.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


This pond is alongside the highway past the Summit on the way to Tofino.

[Some of you who are new to my site have mentioned wishing to hear more of my story. For now, though it is a bit of a read, this piece, written a few years ago, will tell you quite a bit about me, the single most defining decision of my life - and the ten glorious years that followed.

An edited version of this piece appeared in the anthology Writing the West Coast: In Love With Place, edited by Christine Lowther and Anita Sinner. The title, of course, convinced me I had something to say about this love of place! Of the various places my work has appeared, I am most proud of appearing in this anthology.]

The wild shores of Clayoquot Sound sang a siren song to me for years before I journeyed there, before I ever saw the perfection of its beauty. This song captured my imagination, my heart and my spirit, drawing me to it as surely as a murrulet is drawn to its nest, a migrant whale to its feeding ground.

And now, years after my glorious decade in that place, the home of my spirit, I still hear its call. Always the wild shores of the Sound pull at me, echo through my heart, here in my home-away-from-home, where I'm remembering, remembering. It's a song of the clean and pungent air, the salt spray, the sea foam, whitecaps lined up and galloping in to shore like wild white horses, manes a-flying. A song of the wild waves, rolling and crashing over black volcanic rock, swirling the maelstrom of The Cauldron at the base of the cliffs on Frank's Island. It sings through the forest floor, through the tops of giant cedar, in the lift of the eagle's wing, seabirds wheeling free above shining waters. A song of the spirit, strong and free and laughing from the top of the wind-swept dunes.

Half a lifetime ago, at thirty, I discovered I was an ocean person, a displaced ocean person, cast up like a beached whale on the unlikely shores of Okanagan Lake. The peaceful lake with its lapping ripples, fragrant bullrushes and weeping willows, was pretty, and desirable to many. But it was the wrong scenery, the wrong place, the wrong "energy" for me.

I don't just love nature - I have a spiritual and physical need to live immersed in it. When I am not, I am homesick, heartsick. When that most essential component to my well-being is lacking, when it is citified, tamed or domesticated, I must make do, and am always aware that I am making do. By 42, I had been longing for the ocean for so many years, I began to feel my soul was dying. I had waited patiently as my three older children completed high school. I grew plaintive about it. I keened; I yearned. By the time my youngest left elementary school, and was about to enter high school herself, I knew it was now or never.

Not brave enough yet to make this huge a leap myself, I waited for the universe to make the change for me. And, in its way, it did.

My sister stacked the deck. For my birthday that year, in 1988, she took me to Tofino on a zodiac expedition to see the whales.

It was as perfect an experience as it could possibly be. The sea was serene, there were whales everywhere, the day was sunny and sharply etched and, when we turned off the motor, we were drifting on the same level as the whales. They were so unconcerned with our presence that one surfaced right beside the boat, thrilling me to my toes. Its ancient eye looked upon us; we gazed back in silent awe, the whoosh of its every exhalation sounding like the very breath of God.

We passed rocks covered with sea lions, who barked imperiously at our passage. Beneath a huge nest in a scrag we sat, staring at the resident eagle, who stared diffidently back. Little orange-beaked puffins bobbed diligently atop the waves. We investigated little inlets, discovered waterfalls. And as we headed back to shore, sunset spread its palette of color before us. It was a dream of perfection.

On the Tall Tree Trail, Meares Island

The tour guides were environmentalists; their talk was of saving Clayoquot Sound's forests, then heavily under seige by the multinationals. They informed us that this one remaining pristine ecosystem, this last stand of old-growth, astoundingly was being cut and exported as raw logs, to be pulped and made into phone books for California. Logging was spreading towards the few remaining untouched watersheds. It was time for those who cared to take a stand. My heart took fire. Everything I loved, longed for and believed in was here, and I wondered: "why am I not here too?"

I did not want to go home. I did not want to be a tourist, who had to leave. I wanted to go home with them: the guides, the environmentalists, the ones who lived there. I wanted to sit by their fires, join in their talk, be one of them. With every fibre in me, I knew that I belonged here.

I went back to the Okanagan, to my hated job, succumbing to depression as winter closed in. I wrote a letter, after a few weeks, to the woman tour boat owner who had guided our excursion. I told her how lucky she was to be living her dream, and how long the west coast had been my dream. On our trip she had spoken of the difficulty in finding anyone who could handle her business as well as she did, so she could take some time off. In my letter, I ventured to wonder if I might be that person, if there might be a place for me there.

There was no reply; the winter went on. The walls closed in and I felt traped: by the need, as a single mother of four, to earn a living, by my aloneness and the seemingly endless struggle. I felt like I existed only to bring brown paper bags of groceries in the front door. An aware employer recognized that my spirit was faltering. She encouraged me to take supervisory training and apply for the position of supervisor in another department, out of the job I hated, away from shift work, into management. I passed the training, won the position, and for the first time was earning enough money to pay the bills with something left over.

The universe, having a sense of humor, chose that moment to offer me, in the form of a letter from Tofino, the choice it has always presented: continued "security", (a huge issue to a single mother accustomed to poverty), in the job I presently held, or the life of my dreams, and utter insecurity: part-time work at six dollars an hour, but in Tofino where I longed to be.

I wrestled with the hugeness of the choice, with its uncertainties and all of its unknowns, but there was little doubt: though needing assurances that simply were not there, I knew this was a choice about following my heart or giving up my dream. And I knew I couldn't live without a dream.

Had I known the difficulties the choice entailed, I might never have found the courage to make the leap. I'm glad I did not know. It was the biggest trusting I have ever had to do, and it repaid me with ten years of unparalleled joy.

What I did know is that, from the moment I first set foot on the beach, that questing, longing, seeking voice inside of me was stilled. I was at home, the home of my spirit, the one place on the planet where I belonged. No matter how difficult it was to find housing, or how many part-time jobs it took to pay the rent, whatever it took, I would do, to feel this rightness, this boundless joy, this sense of being exactly where I was meant to be. Home.
The night I rounded the corner at Long Beach in the rented Budget truck, a gigantic ball of fiery scarlet was going down behind the hills, the sky a Gaugin canvas. Taking a moment from unloading boxes into my winter cabin, I saw a whale in the bay - a whale in my front yard! It was like the universe was on over-drive, underlining my dream come true in Technicolor.

Chestermans Beach, where I spent my first winter

For the next ten years, I walked ecstatically through some of the most spectacularly beautiful landscape on the planet, with daily joy and gratitude at the beauty my eyes were feasting upon, and a fullness in my heart that meant more than any amount of money.

That first winter, Stephanie and I lived in a wooden cabin on Chestermans Beach, Frank's Island right across the sandbar out my kitchen window. (The other kids were on their own by now.) Every morning, as I plugged in my teakettle, I caught my breath in wonder, looking out on white-topped waves, a scene of perfect and unimagined beauty, mine to look upon: mine!

My eyes loved everything they fell upon: treetops poking out of the early morning fog; beckoning miles of white sand stretching to infinity; herons picky-toeing along the pebbled mudflats; orcas vaulting by, a half dozen at a time, in the harbour, to our ecstatic and vocal appreciation. Lone Cone blushing deep rose at sunset; little boats all heading in to port through the dancing waves; interestingly attired alternative lifestyle folk drifting serenely past on bicycles, sometimes singing; the cute little village centre, its appearance unchanged even now, after ten years of a hundred million visitors clambering over it like ants on an unruly anthill.

The sights of home sang a constant love song inside me: rain-slickered, gum-booted locals, heads bent against the wind, making their way laboriously to the post office under the lashing rains of winter. Radar Hill on an early springtime morning, the perfect beauty of the natural world for 360 degrees, as far as I could see. There was the Tall Tree Trail on Meares Island, more spiritual than any cathedral, where one could visit the Hanging Garden Tree, an opulence of ferns and smaller trees cascading from it, and the Stairway to Heaven tree, a giant fallen uphill, so you could walk up it, like a ladder to the stars. I was on "Tofino time" now, everything unfolding however it unfolded. On one magical midnight boat ride, for the first time I saw bioluminescence in its wake, all magical, as brand-new as creation, cleaving my past from the present like another life.

I had only to step onto the beach to achieve a meditative state, all worries falling from thought like weathered shakes from a tinder-dry frame. Every day I chose a different beach, an undiscovered trail. I explored every beloved inch of my new home.

My eyes sang a love song to that place for ten years. It sings inside me still. It always will.

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And then there were the sounds of home that played through my days and nights in that beautiful place, and will echo within me always: rain pelting, pelting through the mountain passes against the windshield, and the swish-swish-swish of the windshield wipers: the joy of heading home, the very word a triumphant smile inside. Loving every inch of the highway that took me there.

It's the sound of waves coming in like jet planes at South Beach in winter storm, walking a deserted shore, the only human visible for miles. The piercing keen of an eagle's cry, the raucuous shrieking of the seagulls massing on the sandbar at Combers before a storm, the bossy caw of the town crows, begging for scraps on the common. It's the locals dressed as crows, cawing a "happy solstice" to a crow-loving friend, on their knees around her, cawing upwards at her laughing face, lit by candle glow. It's the scold of a bright bluejay on the rough planked deck as Mozart wafts through the open window. It's the comforting whoosh of the fire crackling to life in the woodstove, the putt-putt-putt of boat engines pulling up to the government dock, the bell tinkling on the door of the Common Loaf as you go in out of the rain, local faces upturned to greet you, wet rain gear sloughed off and steaming. It's the midnight storm lashing the creaky house, waves in full fury against the dunes out front, tall branches whipping the cabin wall, I snug in bed. It's the mooing of the foghorn at Lennard Light, sounding all night long through the eerie, drifting fog. And, in the morning, it's the complete silence that lets you know the power is out again, no humming appliances to muffle the sound of Perfect Peace. It's the sound of my beloved waves, forever advancing and retreating in my heart.

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When I moved to Tofino in 1989, the environmental movement was gathering steam.

As the environmentalists grew more numerous, vocal and visible, the Share B.C. movement rose in response. Yellow ribbons hung from car radio antennas. You could paint Ucluelet (our neighboring village on the peninsula that houses Pacific Rim National Park) yellow, Tofino green. "Share B.C." said the pins on the lapels of the pursed-lipped ladies at the Post Office, who were married to loggers. "Share the Stumps!" cheerfully responded the greens. "Logging Feeds My Family", proclaimed the high-up bumpers of the mega-wheeled Monster Trucks. "No jobs on a dead planet," said the signs at the blockades.

Then came 1993, and the Peace Camp - and everything came to a head. Arrests, placards, banners across the highway ("No More Token Groves" at Cathedral Grove) - everything was hotting up and no one was backing down.

I was there some mornings before work, On The Road, heart bursting. At the Women's Blockade, proud, joyous, and strong, we sang and spiral danced around the roadway, feeling our power, sharing smiles. That night my very conservative son phoned: "Mom, I saw you on the news, dancing on the road with a bunch of hippies!"

And now, always will I remember: the gentle sleepy beat of the tom-toms in the early morning half-light as we gathered around the campfire; the fear and determination as the big trucks rolled in, as the official read out the order to move off the road, and the RCMP moved in to make the arrests, people being carried away by arms and legs, to our supportive cheers and tears - the most profound and passionate hours and days of my life.

I was there the night they closed the Peace Camp down. I sat listening to Dana Lyons singing "Magic", watching hippies dancing in a clearcut, followed by a fifteen-minute group hug and an "OMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM" that seemed as if it would never end, blissful smiles amid the stumps, smiled down on by a full, round Grandmother Moon.

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Lori Kerr photo
More than the beauty, it was the community I belonged to there that filled me. They told me the ley lines intersected near Tofino in a way that makes it one of the power spots on the planet, that it draws certain folk to it like a magnet, as I had been drawn. There, I was enveloped by highly original, individualistic, creative, intelligent, authentic, interesting and fully alive people, each with a unique gift to share.

At the Common Loaf I once heard a tourist observe wonderingly: "They're like refugees from the 60's". We were, and that is what I most loved.

There appeared to be no barriers of age there. At all events, all ages were present, each person accepted as a being of worth. At International Womens' Day we'd all arrive, bearing plates of food: lush young women at the peak of their flowering, demure young girls just on the threshold, decorous-enough-looking crones with gray hair - until the drums began, at which time we were all transported into a spiral-dancing, writhing, joyously beaming mass of primal womanhood and rocked the roof off. A beloved and feisty septuagenarian got up to do a boogy-shimmy, to the raucous delight of the watchers; a young woman read a poem about menstruation that had the room in hysterics; a belly dance was performed with the knowing eyes and awesome sensuality of a full-figured woman at home in her body; followed by a slender First Nations girl draped in white wolf fur, who danced for the animals.

In the old, small dusty theatre, local playwrights offered gems about life and love; we watched child performers grow up on stage from year to year; we laughed and cried and witnessed moments that will live in my heart forever.

The best musical concerts I ever attended were in this place, where the small local audiences were so receptive they rose as a single entity and danced and writhed frenetically to the music. No polite pat-pat-patting for applause-but an uproarious frenzy of appreciative pleasure!

I was at home among my people there. These days I am not. Now the town inhabits me, as I once inhabited the town. But all of these precious memories still live, within the chambers of my heart - they live.

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After 1993, the tourists came in the millions to see this beautiful spot that had gained so much attention on the evening news. The tourist dollars pouring in changed some of the feeling and flavor of our little village. Everything started getting tuned up to welcome the money in. Finding affordable housing became even more of a nightmare. Tofino has its wealthy Monster House owners, but no housing for the minimum-wage earners who love it so dearly they are willing to struggle to stay there. The irony is that it is the minimum wage earners who man the desks at all the tourist agencies fuelling the economy in this tourist-dependent village. Many of these clerks live in vans and tents in good weather. But to those who guide the decisions, the priority is continuing the upscale trend that is Whistlerizing Tofino, effectively squeezing out some of the people who love the place most dearly.

I did not have to live in a van or a tent, but the constant moving was stressful and debilitating. I needed a home so badly, I was grateful to finally move into a collapsing trailer that I had to basically rebuild, just to have a home. For ten years, I maintained that dance of survival, the precarious yet deeply joyous clinging of the impoverished, like a marsupial to the underside of a storm-tossed branch. But I wager I was richer in spirit and happiness than the wealthiest resident of the monster houses lining the beach I walked twice daily.

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Why I had to leave that place is another story. I came away with the satisfaction that, alone, with enormous trust, I had made my dream come true. I also learned that there is no security, other than that which we carry around inside ourselves.

I worked myself into collapse in the years I lived there, and that collapse eventually cost me my place there. No choice but to sell my hard-won trailer, my tiny foothold on this place so dear. I left Tofino suddenly, by ambulance, no time for a painful goodbye. I awoke in a different place, Port Alberni, a logging and pulp and paper community, the antechamber of Paradise, as unlikely a follow-up as one might imagine.

Away from the place where I belong, I had to learn to be happy in yet another landscape foreign to my spirit. The universe set me the task of losing, once again, what I most love, of learning to be happy -if not ecstatic-in the least likely setting I could envision for myself, and I have done this.

Is it better to find home, then lose it, than never to have found it? Yes, definitely.

For ten years, I was so in love with Clayoquot Sound that I had no need of a partner. How many lives can claim a solid decade of joy on a daily basis? I was in the august, ecstatic company of Rumi and Hafiz. My soul sang with one constant refrain: this place is so beautiful, so beautiful, I am so happy to be here. And I did it myself - with generous assists from all the gods and angels, who assist me still.

I miss it every day, the dream of returning a beacon I fasten my hope to. I no longer have the health, finances or stamina to re-enter the housing merry-go-round, every few months finding a new place so the tourists can rent the space for bigger dollars. But one day, perhaps I will return. I want to end my life there, where I belong, among the loved and venerable crones in that eccentric-friendly place. I want my remains put to rest in the cemetery under the wind-whipped pines, where the winter gales howl through.

Love for that place never stops singing inside me. I carry those ten years within me like a gleaming treasure, like a song of love.

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I have made a home-away-from-home here, in this place chosen for its affordability and proximity to my beloved beach, an hour and a half away. I walk the forest trails, spindly pine forests draped with verdant moss and old man's beard, not old growth. I find water: joyously rushing deep green rivers, burbling creeks, sleepy lagoons and lakes, and not the pounding sea.

I found a big rock by the lake the other day. It spoke to me, so I rolled it to my car, heaving it up and onto the floorboard. On this rock I shall paint the word: Peace. I will roll it across the yard, plant it beside the fence, water it well and watch it grow in this unaccustomed soil.


And now it is mid-summer in Port Alberni. The evenings are long and light; the sunlight turns amber as evening fades. Our hearts are turning towards fall, amber days, blackberry-picking. I am yearning to travel up and over the mountain pass, to walk the wild beaches once again.

In Tofino, sunset was an event, as in "are you going to the sunset tonight?" or "catch you at the sunset." All up and down the beach people gathered to attentively witness the sun going down behind the horizon. Fires crackled and glowed at intervals; people wandered down from their houses holding their after-dinner cups of tea.

There are no sunsets here. Sometimes some color creeps across the sky from behind the mountains to the west, leftovers from the spectacular summer sunsets I know are occuring at the beach. I yearn; I long.

Today, I will spend outdoors. Today, the world is burnished gold, fading soft to sunset. As the colored remnants streak across the evening sky, I will look to the mountaintops. Behind them, on the West Coast, glorious sunsets are unfolding, these richly colored evenings. On tiptoe, I can almost see them shining.

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