Salmon at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia – Vancouver
When we picked up the car in Port Hardy on Monday, the brake pads had rusted to the disks and prevented the car from moving. After nearly two months idle in wet weather and cold, some forward and reverse with the transmission was required to break the brakes free and after that, riding the brakes was necessary to wear off their rust barnacles. So it was for me too, driving and reacquainting myself with cars, traffic and people, and with the notion of leaving our nest on God’s Pocket.
Our trip down the island was uneventful. There’s a long stretch from Port Hardy to Campbell River, our intended overnight destination, where the road curves tightly through the mountains, rain comes and goes, and there’s no cellular service. It was peaceful, and David and I talked about our time in God’s Pocket, and how much we’d miss our hosts, Bill and Annie, and Gem, the chef. We day dreamed about care taking again next winter. We also discussed signing on as staff for the season: together we could be their 5th staff person, overseeing the shore-based operations. Plenty of time to consider the option, we said, thinking that it might be our version of running away to join the circus.
When we got to Campbell River, the hotel we had hoped to stay at had no vacancies, much to our surprise. We had other options in town, but decided to go about an hour south to the Courtenay-Comox area. There was a K’omoks First Nation art gallery that I wanted to visit in the morning, foregoing another gallery in Campbell River since there was no available lodging. We considered and found gifts for our friends in San Francisco who had been so helpful to us with house-sitting, cat care, and the flooded condo; and we found a beautiful carved wood salmon that we wanted for our home.
Later that afternoon, after crossing to the mainland on the BC Ferries, we stayed in a charming in-law suite (via Airbnb) complete with chickens in the Strathcona neighborhood of Vancouver, a gentrifying area east of Chinatown. Vancouver reminds me of San Francisco in many ways: it is physically reminiscent, with distinct neighborhoods, hills and water views, and is also expensive and undergoing a building boom. The population seems more diverse than San Francisco’s at this time, but that’s hard to tell just by walking the streets or looking out the car window. When we met people, we universally exchanged views that SF and Vancouver are so much alike that it is inevitable that each loves the other.
We spent a wonderful, engaging morning yesterday at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia. The University is on the far west side of Vancouver and overlooks the Fraser River Delta; a land grant university in a dramatic location. The MOA is a remarkable institution, reflecting and exhibiting First Nation art, artifacts and totems. We learned about the outlawing of potlatches, the community, cultural and spiritual gatherings of first nations tribes, until the 1950s. “The potlatch refers to the ceremony where families gather and names are given, births are announced, marriages are conducted, and where families mourn the loss of a loved one. The potlatch is also the ceremony where a chief will pass on his rights and privileges to his eldest son.” We also learned about the devastation by smallpox of the coastal tribes of British Columbia: in the 1880s the Haida tribe numbered 10,000; by the early 1900s less than 500 people remained.
The art at the MOA, so important to family and cultural life, is beautifully explained and displayed with permission from First Nations peoples to ensure understanding, appreciation and perpetuity. And because the MOA is a research museum, one of the exhibits has drawer upon drawer of artifacts, each more unique and remarkable than the next, a reflection of the time and care brought by each craftsperson to his or her work.
This morning, we left Vancouver to drive south into the US, and are visiting with a friend on Whidbey Island. Ironically, there is currently no power here: a tree fell across the wires just 20 yards up the road during a wind storm the previous evening. We have no power just a stone’s throw from metropolitan Seattle, far less than we did on self-powered Hurst Island, 500 miles to the north. We are currently sharing conversation, having some wine, all with a fire in the fireplace keeping us warm and candles lit as the sun drifts lower in the western sky. Our re-entry requires some back and forth to get us moving forward again, and the lack of electric power is most helpful to that end.
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