Archive for September 2011
About 10 years ago my son Ryan learned how to ride a bike here at Porpoise Bay. Back ache and heart ache were the prevailing emotions as my four-year-old finally wobbled away from me along the green towards the forest.
Ten years later I’m back here, sitting on the shore of Sechelt Inlet, looking for Ryan. He was last seen paddling an inflatable dinghy with three 14-year-old friends whose idea of “planning” was to bring a paddle: Sunscreen and lifejackets, not so much.
“We’re probably not going to get far,” were Ryan’s last words heading away. That was two hours ago.
Every year, you’ll find us camping here, usually on Canada’s Labour Day weekend. It’s a ritual I like to think of as planned spontaneity – the last chance to fill days with life’s pointless yet most meaningful pursuits: reading, writing, playing, eating and drinking.
There are lots of friends and no deadlines.
Porpoise Bay is a beautiful camping spot with sheltered sites, wooded trails and a sandy beach on the inlet. The sites and trails were carved out of the forest by Ole Johansen. In the 1940s, Ole was a champion ski jumper, competing all over the Pacific Northwest. He was the caretaker at Mount Seymour in North Vancouver, living in the two storey cabin he built himself. Every week the native Norwegian would walk from Mount Seymour Highway back up the mountain after evening classes to improve his English. It took him three hours each time.
I say a quiet thank you to Ole every time I come here, and to Leah, who brought me here the first time. Growing up in London, my experience of camping was a farmer’s field in Dorset and disorganized rows of tents, tarps and windbreakers. The camp site at Charmouth had all the privacy of a refugee camp.
It’s almost 7 p.m. and I’m a little anxious. I only wish my legs could race as fast as my mind.
“Oh, they’ll be back when they’re hungry,” the mum of one of Ryan’s fellow paddlers tells me.
At 7, their boat appears from behind an island in the inlet. Ryan’s friend is wearing pyjama bottoms. The four of them are a mix of bronzed and burnt, all of them bearing the scars of a late afternoon session of cliff jumping.
They disembark and Ryan sees us on the beach.
“What’s for dinner?” he says.