St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Wendy and I have had enough of city life. Wendy never was a city girl, and I was always a country boy at heart, even though I have lived all my life in the city. Gang shootings or stabbings every week; insane traffic; not knowing your neighbour. It's no way to live.
How did we decide on Denman Island? It all started with a chocolate bar...
Wendy had tried a bar of Denman Island Chocolate at a writer's festival at Sechelt, B.C.. When she returned to Calgary, she realized that she needed to obtain a regular supply. So, she wrote to the chocolatiers to find out where she could obtain their product locally. That was the beginning of a correspondence with the Terrys. A year later, we were going out to the same festival at Sechelt and decided, as long as we were on the coast anyway, why not visit the chocolate factory on Denman Island? When we asked the Terrys if that might be possible, they not only warmly invited us, but insisted that we stay the night with them. When we arrived, we were immediately impressed not only with their personal generosity, but also with the physical environment and the feel of the community.
Later, when considering the possibile locations to which we could move, we had almost decided on Antigonish, N.S.. Something didn't fit: no mountains, it didn't feel like "us", something not quite right. Suddenly, the thought occurred to us: why not Denman Island?
Since then, we have purchased a house on Denman Island, and are preparing to move there on April 1st. The house is a bit too small for us, and we are considering the options for increasing the space. But that is in the future. For now, we are concentrating on packing, packing, packing.
Here's one reason we will be glad to leave Alberta behind. We just about had all the snow from the last storm melted, and now it's coming down hard again. Okay, it is February, I admit. The depressing thing, though, is that it will still be doing this in May.
On Denman Island, there are only one or two snowfalls a year, and they have the good manners to melt within a few days. By this time of year, snowdrops have already flowered and tulips are thinking about it. By May, when people in Calgary are thinking about whether it is safe to plant a few frost-tolerant seeds, gardeners on Denman are alreading harvesting veggies.
This year is Alberta's centennial. If anyone asks what we are doing to commemmorate the centennial, the answer will be "leaving".
There are other reasons to leave besides the weather. Politics, for one. What can you say about a jurisdiction where there has been only one change of government in 70 years, where, once elected, the premier is effectively "President For Life"?
We live in a fairly progressive area where not everyone is right-wing. Liberals voted strategically in the federal election before last to elect Conservative Joe Clark. (Electing a Conservative may sound an odd thing for Liberals to want to do, but the alternative was the Reform/Alliance candidate.) In the most recent provincial election, NDPers voted strategically to elect the Liberal candidate. But this area is an exception in a sea of red necks.
Politics in B.C. have always been "interesting" (in the sense of the ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times"), but at least there, the electorate can throw the bums out once in a while.
Packing is going well. There's lots more to do, though. We have the movers booked for March 31st.
We've sold our house here in Calgary to a developer. It's a pity that it will be demolished; it has lots of character. However, only yuppies can afford to buy in this area, and no yuppy wants a 900 square foot bungalow.
When you move to a new climate, you have to get the appropriate clothing to survive the winter. Here in Calgary, it's mitts, facemask and toque. On the west coast, it's umbrella, poncho and rubber boots.
So, I just got an essential component of my Denman wardrobe. Here I am modeling them.
Actually, it hasn't been raining too much on Denman lately. The nearest Environmant Canada weather station is at the Comox Air Force Base. Lately, there have been quite a few "sun" logos on their forecast. (Here in Calgary, it's still below freezing, with snow and ice on the ground.)
Our household goods will be loaded on the truck on March 31st, and, after a night in a motel, we expect to hit the road on April 1st. We will be about three days on the road, including a brief visit with my mother in New Westminster, then we'll have to spend a day or two cleaning and painting the house on Denman before we get our furniture moved in. So we'll be moved in by the end of the first week of April.
Which may be quite late to start a garden by the local standards, but luxuriously early for us! We might be too busy to do serious gardening the first year, but it's something to look forward to in the future.
Someone commented on my Feb 13th diary entry by saying, "Your reasons for leaving Calgary are essentially two-fold: weather and politics." Actually, those are only two of the many reasons we are moving to Denman Island.
As I said on Feb 11th, we have had enough of city life. True, there are advantages to having services close at hand. But, we think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. We detest the anonymity of city life. City people justify outrageously antisocial conduct on the grounds that they will never meet their victims again. Whether it is flipping someone the finger in traffic, putting one's feet up on the seat on the C-Train, or committing armed robbery, the principle is the same.
While city life is pushing us away, rural life is calling to us. We long to be surrounded by nature. Not the tame wannabe nature of manicured lawns and pruned trees, but real, wild, trees-creaking-in-the-wind, critters-in-your-yard nature. We want to live where really big nature is not an hour's drive away but ten minutes' walk away.
We long for a sense of community, where people talk to each other because they are neighbours. We look forward to living where people wave to each other as they pass on the road, where "rush hour" means leaning into a friend's car window to chat in the ferry lineup, where the guy you disagree with about politics at the community hall might be the same guy who will pull your car out of a ditch with his tractor.
We look forward to looking up at night and seeing stars. Not the 17 stars that glimmer feebly through the haze and lights on an exceptionally clear city night, but real stars, in the thousands or millions, stunningly brilliant against a black velvet sky. Ever since I was a pre-schooler, I have always had a love for astronomy, yet, until now, I have never been able to do any, because you can't see the sky in the city.
Wendy grew up in Nova Scotia. Except for the last few years in Calgary, she has always lived near the ocean. Salt water in her veins. Being near the ocean is a part of who she is. We look forward to a lifetime of kayaking weekends and vacations within a day's drive (or even a brisk walk) of home.
We look forward to growing tomatoes that do not have ominous-sounding names like "Siberia" or "Sub-Arctic", carrots that can grow more than a centimetre long in one season, fruit trees, Gravenstein apples. We look forward to calling my brother in Saskatoon in January and telling him that the snowdrops and crocuses are up. (Sorry, Steve and Darlene!)
Is this a romantic view of life? Perhaps. I would say that it is a wholesome view of life. I would guess that many, perhaps most, city dwellers share parts of it. At some point, you have to take charge of your life and make your dreams come true.
We have been planning our move for nearly two years. The photo shows our planning wall, with maps, aerial photos, satellite photos, floor plans, temperature graphs, etc. of Denman Island.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013