When it comes to long-distance driving, men of a certain age can choose between being dehydrated or being uncomfortable. I tend to go with dehydrated. I’d rather have a headache than be constantly preoccupied with the next rest stop. So no coffee for me before heading off for the 4-hour trip from Cedar to Tofino for an area-clergy gathering. And no coffee at the Tim Horton’s in Port Alberni along the way. “I’ve had my coffee quota already” I said honestly. As I learned from a Moroccan friend long ago, it’s perfectly okay to tell the truth while stopping short of the whole truth.
The coffee was plentiful and good at the little Anglican church in which we met. I was parched. The day was beautiful too, making it a bit of a shame we spent most of it indoors. Thankfully my new colleagues are all very interesting, so I didn’t mind too much. On the wall was an old flag, a “Church Ensign” or “Church Pennant”, and only I knew what it was: a flag of St. George attached to a Dutch flag, first flown during the Dutch – English naval battles over 300 years ago to signal when a worship service was happening on board. Both navies flew them. “We agree not to kill each other when worshipping Almighty God.” Western civilization.
On the way home we stopped briefly on the beach, standing on the crashing edge of North America, watching the massive breakers roll in, squinting our eyes to see Japan or more likely Sakhalin, some 6000 kilometers away. I thought of Robert Louis Stevenson, on leaving San Francisco for the South Seas: “I was now escaped out of the shadow of the Roman empire, under whose toppling monuments we were all cradled, whose laws and letters are on every hand of us, constraining and preventing…”
Back home the rain has started again. The deer stroll through my yard, munching grass, unhurried and unconcerned, like domesticated cattle. The neighbours who all have tulips and other delicious varieties of flowers don’t like the deer. I have grass and weeds, so they are welcome here.
The Vancouver Canucks (like “ducks”, not “hooks”) are doing well this year. This part of enculturation I enjoy. I catch the occasional play-off game, Molson beer in hand, leaning far back in my enormous Lazy-Boy overstuffed reclining chair, cheering men on whose names I hardly know in a game I don’t fully understand. But they’re our boys and they should win.
Canada has been good to me so far.