Place Where You Live:

Merville, British Columbia, Canada

It is my everlasting pleasure to live in the rural community of Merville, British Columbia, surrounded by old hippies, fundamentalist Christians, badly-aging cowgirls, redneck loggers, and urban defectors with new plaid shirts and attitudes. We are halfway up Vancouver Island, a tectonic fragment off the left coast of a restless continent. Like slipping on a pair of shoes that caress my feet, the fit so ideal; this is what it was like when I came onto this land thirty years ago. The realtor sat in his hot car and waited so I walked without his badgering sales pitch. Not that it was needed. I was quickly told the narrative.

It was late August and the land sung in a sultry late summer voice. In the lowland, black cottonwood leaves rattled in the outflow wind, releasing that Balm of Gilead scent which evoked my childhood on the hot prairies where trees were rare. Rising from the wetland to a slight ridge the acreage was trying to heal itself from the logging which preceded the sale. Valiant red alder grew thickly, with healing root nodules infusing the soil with needed nitrogen. Brash and exuberant, full of confidence as only youth can be, they promised to make the land well again if only I would give them time.

Three decades have passed. The pioneer alders, in a succession arising from millennia of rehearsal, have given way to a wonderous stand of Douglas fir, Sitka spruce and Red cedar. We have raised our sons here, fed them on the richness of the glacial loam — vegetables, fruit and animals — then sent them into the world to make of it what they would. Tomorrow one is visiting with his daughters who will leap from the truck and race to the garden to scavenge strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. They will return with sticky smeared faces and hands to us sitting in the deep shade of a prairie Bur oak planted as a seedling my late mother brought out wrapped in a brassiere deep in her suitcase.