Tuesday 21 October 2014

A little piece of paradise

In waters of the Straight of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland of southwestern British Columbia are a cluster of islands known as the Southern Gulf Islands. They're quiet, rural places where neighbours are often of the four-legged variety.
These serene islands are havens for creative types of all kinds - artists, writers, musicians - as well as for those who simply wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of more urban lifestyles. Handfuls of resourceful full-timers live year-round, taking on the many challenges of island life, while others maintain second homes on these idyllic jewels in the sea, places they can go to leave their busy every-day lives behind without permanently having an ocean and a ferry ride between them and their families and jobs and other significant ties, not to mention the services and conveniences of mainland life.

Tucked away in a corner of one of these islands, at the end of a hidden driveway that winds among leafy arbutus and towering evergreens is a dilapidated little yellow cottage.

It's not much of a place, a real fixer-upper - what's known euphemistically as a "handyman special". But as of just a couple of weeks ago, this ramshackle cottage became my own little Gulf Island retreat - dodgy well water, funky septic system, and all, with a rickety set of front steps, a roof that's best not looked at too closely, and a few other deficiencies that will need to be seen to in the coming months. This rustic abode might not be everyone's idea of paradise, but that's what it is to me. It's my own piece of a part of the world that has always attracted me like a moth to a flame: a little Gulf Island retreat to call my own. For the past decade or so my husband and I had dreamed of this, and now it's finally come to fruition.

While the cottage itself isn't much, it's on a well-treed half acre that backs onto a large tract of undeveloped forest.

Best of all, it's only a stone's throw from this:

An easy stroll with a cup of coffee, I've already picked out the rock where I'll sit, and sip, enjoy the morning sunshine, and gaze at the ocean while Lily (who is now, by the way, a rambunctious six-month-old pup and no longer a baby) plays on the beach. I think I might need a kayak.

And what I'm most excited about is the art I'll make based on my new part-time life as a Gulf Islander. A chunk of the island is devoted to the Gulf Islands National Marine Park, and another part of its coastline faces Active Pass which is considered to be migratory bird habitat of international significance. There are seal colonies, forested hillsides, shorebird nesting areas, and whenever I've been there I've heard a myriad of songbirds twittering, ravens muttering in the treetops, and watched pileated woodpeckers flapping and tapping amongst the evergreens. There are a few cozy farms where cattle, horses and sheep graze comfortably, and who knows what else? I can't wait to discover it all.

But for now our visits to our new "estate" involve winterizing activities so the sound of hammers drowns out the peeping of the nuthatches, and the baaa-ing of the sheep over the fence is hard to hear above the shrill whine of the circular saw, and there's only time for a quick dash down to the beach to reassure ourselves it's there and it's why we're doing what we're doing.

And I've yet to enjoy sipping that morning coffee on the beach, but it will come. It is said the best things are worth waiting for.