Wednesday, January 13, 2016

First Impressions of the Sechelt Property

    In the spring of 1950, my father bought a summer home on Sechelt Inlet, three miles from the head of the inlet and located on the eastern side. The house - which it was, rather than a cabin - was one of three built on the shores, on or near a tiny bay. The road came no closer than half a mile from our miniature resort and there were few boats travelling that part of the inlet. so my father's purchase guaranteed what were literally weekend or longer retreats from the often tawdry environment of our city community. As it goes among those not yet fully integrated with the life of grace, I had been able - since a little child - to balance my life quite nicely between solitude and company, but as adolescence came upon me I was attracted to deeper silences, and the possession of the inlet hermitage guaranteed  an atmosphere for them. Only a monastery could have created a more solemn environment, or perhaps a very devout home, and the Spirit took every advantage of the lonesome geography, over the years, that I would allow Him.
    It was the second time that my father had bought property. A year after the war he bought a section of land on a coastal island for the purpose of logging it, but the timber business had not been kind to him. We left the island after a year-and-a-half and within another year or so he had sold that property. When the opportunity of the Sechelt house came up we were all excited, but no-one more so than myself, for in the various times during the first fifteen years of my life when I had lived out of the city I had been nourished by the forest and often longed for a home closer to it. My father's work, however, dictated living in or at least close to the city of Vancouver, so I had to leave my hopes of a less urban environment to my own adulthood, in the meantime taking advantage of any temporary occasions that arose. This is not to say that I ignored the opportunities provided by the city; in fact I took full advantage of anything I found attractive, exercising my intelligence and acquiring experiences to a degree that would not have been possible either on the island or on Sechelt Inlet, but in the midst of my activities: high school, sports, army cadets, scouts, a newspaper route, and frequent regular invasions of the public library, I often felt a distinct and powerful longing for a more solitary relationship with reality, and this although most of my near relatives, with all of whom I was on close terms, lived also in the city, or close to it.
    Some of my desire, of course, was the customary romanticism and outdoor attraction. At about the same time as my father bought the property, perhaps just a month or two before, I suffered my only real temptation to quit school. I was in Grade Ten, and doing well enough academically, undisturbed by any conscious frustrations, yet a book I read about ranching in the Cariboo literally inflamed my imagination with a desire to leave my home and my classroom and set out for a life of cow punching. I can recall having to deal with this desire all day long. Only in the night did it subside, to leave me at peace with my environment. When, six years later, I did travel into the Cariboo to work for a summer in the wilderness I fulfilled every image of my fifteen-year-old vision, but as a result not of a hasty decision to escape my rightful environment too soon, but following the unbroken years of study I had put in at high school and university, and particularly as a result of the months before the foray in the wilderness, when very intensive studies of the social sciences and modern literature had given me a profound sense of my own dignity as a person, my individual skill as a poet, and my right of searching in the best sources available for the concepts of absolute truth.
    There was another experience of that year - the Salvation Army, which is another story, but which I mention here because it is part of the total circumstances of that year. I tried out the Salvation Army Sunday School for three or four weeks, following my appointment as a patrol second of the scout troop. Unfortunately, and to some degree crediting my father's attitude, I chose Sunday school this time not so simply as a year or two before - for my own good simply - but just as much from a feeling that I should set an example to the other members of my patrol. I told my mother this and possibly I told my father. The original inspiration was simple enough - I can distinctly remember its purity - but the question of example was a self-satisfying bit of clutter and I think that my father knew it. Whatever he knew by the time I mentioned that they had asked me to join the band, he was all objections and that was the last excuse I needed to take back my Sunday mornings to myself.
    But as grace builds on nature, Providence got at me another way, and this time through my father, with the purchase of the Sechelt property.

No comments: