Archive for ‘tofino’

May 26, 2013

good medicine

my family has just returned from a week away to tofino, a small and remote town on the west coast of vancouver island that serves as our home away from home.

sometimes, when driving in, and this trip was no exception, i realize what i seem to forget over and over: that this is where i went missing. it’s no one’s fault that we moved out so fast but, evidently, i wasn’t ready.

as it is now, life finds us well in vancouver, and we have a roundness and a wholeness to our life that we could not have achieved on the edge.  i remain confident that we made the right choice for our then son and now our plus one but my ghost lingers in that land, and i could almost hear pieces of me coming together as we drove further along, remnants of a spirit self lurking behind every curve of the treacherous highway and then surfacing, finding me.

my spouse drove us in steady, silent in thought and tapping his fingers to music we couldn’t hear, at ease in the familiar and soon to be in his family home, that of his family of origin- those that make him who he is and help explain some of what he has never been able to say.

my big boy, excited and anxious, desperate with anticipation to see “the tofino house” and the cousins that he adores and idolizes, played out every road trip cliche, asking every few minutes if we were there yet, begging for us to hurry, fighting sleep with repetitive movement like shaking his head, kicking his legs, rocking backwards and forward, and making obnoxious noises that he generously referred to as “songs”.

our precious baby, a living lesson in keeping an open heart and trusting those who love you, curiously looked at the passing scenery with an uninformed yet peaceful acceptance.

it seemed that all of us but our ever consistent baby behaved differently en route, gradually admitting to ourselves how much we miss living there and how right it feels to return.

we eventually arrived and unpacked- some baggage too. it was unintentional but the air, heavy with moisture, met my face and the release was immediate. then, on wednesday, a few days in, the release deepened. just like in yoga when the pose is enhanced by your breath alone.

my big boy had asked me on a date to the beach, just me and him, you see, and we went of course. he and i can’t get enough of that air- it brings us both to who we wish we could be, i think. he was down the path and soon knee deep in the water, and i, standing tall and facing the roar, was immediately overwhelmed with the sight of him free and unrestricted. both of us, made fresh, made clear, in mere moments.

it’s always been this way for me. same goes for him.

we spent his maternity leave in tofino and with hours and hours a day with nothing to do but love him, we found ourselves on long beach walks, almost everyday. not for nothing, either. tightly wound and full of complaint inside, my baby boy relaxed seconds after we closed the front door behind us, as did i. regardless of the weather, often near tempest, we were there, usually first thing in the morning before our moods could get ahead of us.

i remember walking with him mid winter in torrential rain, me in full rain gear and his stroller encased: a safe haven against the elements and his mother’s angst while she was making sense of her new life. it wasn’t an easy time. my first son was sensitive and particular and a lot of effort was required of me to keep his wails away. i sorted us both out over time, especially when i built in the beach ceremony- with waves and blood pulsing it all made sense somehow and i came to measure my parenting success on any one day if i achieved him getting rosy cheeks.

on crazy days, i thought that if he could face and take in enough of the storm that he’d be healthy, well raised, though i still don’t really know the details why. regardless, pushing him before me did us both good. i always returned from the treks breathing heavy and legs tingling, all my inner tumultuousness quieted by the louder chaos outside, and our days were calmer together, and brighter, optimistic even, having already conquered something, anything, that day.

this date day, all these years later, he was before me again. he had the same eyes, same look, and same vibe as he did when he was the most compact and intense version of himself but he’s matured so much now, and so have i. we made it. we made it through the dark, both emotional and literal, as tofino winters are not known to be luminous, and we made it all the way to another gorgeous life joining us on our journey of being born a family.

our morning at the beach was too soon over and, before we knew it, we all found ourselves on the ride home- marked by satisfaction and fatigue.

“are we there yet?”, he asked as we drove towards our permanent home. “i think so”, i answered.

May 20, 2013

cheating on my husband

dear tofino,

i love you and i always have.

sincerely, yours.

April 20, 2013

“when you walked into my house”- stevie nicks

my son thinks nothing grows in the winter but, he’s wrong. i do.

in all fairness, he hasn’t been made privy to the story of how his father and i came to know one another. he doesn’t know how we fell into a raw and complicated mess that broke both of our hearts. he doesn’t know that his father was brave enough to forgive me, and he doesn’t know how transformative it was for his mother to lower her fists, or that i almost didn’t.

i met my husband in the fall of my 25th year. every sunday night, after yoga class, i went grocery shopping with two friends who were coupled at the time. he worked there and i noticed him. i thought he was cute and found the manner in which he carried himself enticing. i was only mildly interested whether he had anything to offer beyond that. mostly, i liked to watch him work and i liked that he watched me back.

it’s no secret that secrets are hard to keep in small towns and, as it were, news travelled fast. we were quickly set up by mutual acquaintances, and we did not have much choice in the matter. truth be known, i didn’t much resist: it seemed like something to go for. after all, winter in tofino was fast approaching and it would be dark very, very soon.

we met up, hung out, and then, with my closed heart and big mouth, i spent a few months participating in the sport of pushing him away. i was finally successful, only then to realise in the depth of winter, with him now long gone from my days, that despite my pretentiousness, protectiveness, and preconceived ideas about partnership, i had, despite all efforts, fallen in love with him.

at that stage in my life i had a habit of being stubborn to the point of self sabotage and i was, specifically, overly proud around matters of the heart.

i had to be. i was recovering from a significant car accident that had devastated me a year prior and though my bones were mostly healed, shadows still rattled me in secret. i was a different girl. i felt vulnerable in multiple ways and i wasn’t too inclined to make myself more so. i was wounded in other, less specific ways, too. i hate to admit it but the ghosts of a breakup past followed me around.  despite my voodoo efforts to shake him, his memory and the lessons i needed to learn haunted me, finding me at inopportune times, mostly when in the company of boys. as it turned out, one minute i’d be laughing, glass of wine in hand, and the next, when my eyes met theirs, there he’d be, infiltrating my consciousness, without consent.

ultimately, this burden resulted in me keeping myself emotionally distant from most individuals of the male persuasion. it can take a while to shake someone out of your system, as i happened to learn twice that winter.

my husband surprised me, the first of many surprises about what kind of man he is and what kind of woman he makes me. i was the bold, loud, assertive, and dynamic one and i thought i was in charge, untouchable, even. he presented, in my judgemental eyes, anyhow, as passive, uninteresting, inexperienced, and limited.

i did what i did. i drew lines in the sand before him just like i had for others. he didn’t listen. he didn’t fight me with force but he did stand steady: solid and open, and persistent in his gentle and unassuming way. i kept it frivolous, as i was in the habit of doing. he was not afraid to let it be known that this was not an insignificant union for him. i made sure he knew he was nothing to me, and never would be. he took it away with him but he also came back.  i engaged with him exclusively on my terms and disregarded what might have been his. he was patient with my arrogance, and my neurosis.

after a while it got complicated. our dance became an unhealthy culmination of bad decisions, consequences, shared horror and, a dangerous codependency. so, like any decent woman would do, i took him out at the knees: chose to proceed, alone from him, and i forced goodbye.

it wasn’t the end, however.

weeks later i could no longer deny that he’d gotten into my bones- deep where a constant ache was already the new normal. and, like my pain, i couldn’t shake him. the winter has a way of forcing me to look at myself and that winter was no exception. i realized, then, that for all the reasons i had determined he was unsuitable for me, not of my kind, i had been wrong.

it was his differences from me that were most striking, most honourable, and most respectable. some distance had let me see that. some space had given room for me to appreciate what kind of person he was, and what kind of man he had been to me.

i remember calling him for the first time with my guard down. it was christmas day, actually, and i called a good friend who knew our story first. “cheryl”, i whispered, “i think i’m in love with him”, i confessed. she, like any good friend who knows when you need to be moved from places of stuck, laughed and pressed me onwards.

i was shaking when i dialed. i knew what it meant. if i opened to him, he would be in my life- in a long-term way. i knew, that for him, there was more to our story. i tried to trust. afterall, he had made clear who he was, and he was a good, good man.

i won’t soon forget how he sounded when he answered the phone, or how my whole being lept at the sound of his voice, previously unappreciated. i won’t ever forget how gracious he was to me, me who had been so selfish and so cold with him. he, in line with past behaviour that i had dismissed, received me with grace, curiosity, and warmth. we spoke for a long time, longer then we had before, and, of most importance- i finally listened.

when i returned from the christmas that i had spent at my parents home, where i had landed, as i often do when i am in a bad way, he greeted me. he brought gifts, of person, of course, and those he had carefully chosen for me, before i had even called. my new life began. the next morning, a friend saw me walking the beach with him. she told me later that she didn’t recognize me. i didn’t either.

the following christmas he proposed to me. i said yes. the next year, we were wed just as winter was giving up it’s fight. like much of our relationship, i oscillated between blissful abandon and crippling anxiety throughout our engagement and, felt both, even, as i walked towards him. there was a giving up in me too, you see, not of who i am, for he has always accepted, honoured, and encouraged me, but of my fear. letting go of what held me back, even as i was moving forward with him, was met with hesitancy- my ego was a hard match for anyone, even my better self.

late the next winter we conceived our first son. the next, he was born. if i thought i had grown to be unselfish in my relationship with my man, i was wrong. the birthing and raising of my first son was a time of my most paramount personal growth. we conceived our second son in the winter, as well, and we welcomed him in the late days of fall. this past winter, i grew again: the kind of growth that can only come from sacrifice, surrender, and patience- like my husband teaches me, over and over, if i slow down enough to watch him live.

this day, all days, all these years later, the anxiety is gone. i knew i was on the edge of a life the day that i called him, and as many would say growth occurs just outside of your comfort zone. fortunately, i arrived, and am now deep in the home of us.

last week,  we took our family on vacation to celebrate 5 years of our marriage. while we were away, i looked over from the bed i was sharing with our baby and silently waved at my spouse, who was in his bed with our eldest son, both of our children deep asleep. he and i were laid diagonal, bodies curled inwards towards our children, and to each other, i suppose, punctuating our family like human parentheses.

i was filled with joy, and pride. there we were, as per theme: seeds planted in the fall, soul work every winter, and in spring, our beauty becomes evident.

with spring here, my inner effort has been exposed again, the big reveal, and all that has been growing with difficulty but without witness, is blossoming everywhere. a subtle, yet vivid intimacy, infiltrates our life and the sun, making me smile, starts to tell the tale.

my son, bless him, is a preschool version of my intensity, and will, naturally, need to be taught and reminded, as i do, that becoming who we are meant to be is a process. nothing is born complete, though it may seem so, for we are often only shown the bloom.

“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident… we have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from our branches we have found that we were one tree and not two.”

– by Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

March 23, 2013



February 5, 2013

you heard it here first

my husband is aboriginal and was raised, along with his 5 siblings and a million cousins, enjoying his momma’s home made bread. now an adult (obviously), it’s safe to say that he would do almost anything to have fresh bread still be a part of his reality.

i, unfortunately, have very few baking skills or, rather, it can be more accurately said that i lack resolve when attention to detail is required. point is, i’ve never learnt how to make it. i can, however, make a mean salmon stew and this qualifies me as west coast enough (for what?), by my own defintion anyhow.

today, i choose to share my stew recipe with you. more good news: there is no wrong way. i make it different every time and it’s always good. damn good. like, the best. like, if i had loads of free time, an industrial kitchen, and the desire, i could sell it. straight up.

fyi: this makes a ton, which you can then freeze and pull out on desperate winter nights or if you have unexpected friends over for merriment and a vain need to impress them (no judgement):

general guidelines:

1 whole salmon (pre gutted)

8-10 cups water, depending on the size of said salmon (start with 8, add more if you think it could use it)

2 cans wild mushroom soup (reduced sodium and fat, of course)

3ish cubes of veggie soup stock

2 red onions

1 (regular?) onion

1 celery bunch

3 cups quartered small potatoes (purple and waxy ones are fun!)

2 yams, chopped

2 cups chopped carrots

1 parsnip

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup frozen peas

2 cups chopped spinach

2 cups chopped mushrooms

this is kinda a sweet stew. you can change that. add spices or seasoning as you see fit. dill is fun. a wee bit of fresh garlic changes it dramatically. rosemary smells savoury and tastes great too. fresh chives or leek are playful additions. a dash of curry powder makes it a whole new experience. you know, with soups there are no rules.


– bake salmon.

– de-bone and de-guk the salmon (easier and less revolting once baked).

– chop veggies.

– throw veggies (firmest to softest) in slow cooker (that’s right bitches)*, flake in salmon.

– add water.

– cook on low for 12 hours.

– stir every so often. if it looks like it needs more water, add some.

– add mushroom soup, frozen corn, peas, spinach, and mushrooms 2 hours before serving.

– stir it all up some more. note: it is intended to be a thick and chunky stew. if there is too much liquid to goodness ratio add more mushroom, corn, or other easy veg like peppers or zucchini that doesn’t take long to cook.

– serve and enjoy. we do it up with bannock, northern style, ’cause it’s HA-MAZING (and foolproof).

* alternatively, if you have some masochistic need to slave away in the kitchen, you can simmer onions and celery in oil at the bottom of a large saucepan (i dunno, 2 tblspns?), then throw in the water and all the hard veggies, giving them time to soften before adding the soft veggies and flaking in the salmon.