Ten-year retrospective

By Tom Read

Ten years ago a neighbour gave us a six-inch high walnut seedling as a house-warming present. It grew into a 20-ft tall tree (and is still growing), but never did it bear a single walnut. Then this spring, look what appeared! Catkins! It appears we may at last see our first harvest; some things just require patience.

This week marks a first decade anniversary for us: On May 4, 2000, Linda and I arrived home on Texada Island. Three years earlier we had bought our property on the island, and from 1996 to 1999 we’d visited each summer for a few weeks while planning our move. But I remember well that day ten years ago in early May when we finally became island residents. We were determined to put down roots — emotionally, physically, and socially — thus making Texada our only home from that moment onwards. Within a year Texada would become our economic home as well.

A few observations about our lives since that day:

1)  A house that’s valued as one’s permanent home is never finished. We keep making changes to suit our evolving way of life, right to this day. The result is an ever-better fit between our lives and our shelter, which is immensely satisfying.

2)  The company of animals makes our place more of a home. Weeks after we arrived, so did Rocky the dog and Penny the cat. After 10 wonderful years together, we lost Rocky to cancer in February of this year. We feel his loss not only emotionally, but physically, too. Deer, raccoons, a feral cat and especially mice have become more intrusive in the immediate vicinity of our house and garden since his passing. Our chickens no longer enjoy his protection, so they don’t get to wander freely quite as much. But soon we hope to find another canine companion, because a country homestead needs a dog.

3)  Generating our own electricity forces us to pay more attention to our dependence on nature. Just one example: our household water must be pumped uphill from a shallow well, which assumes that there’s adequate rainfall to raise the water table and fill our well. Our electrical system, which operates the well pump (among many other devices) depends primarily on falling water and sun exposure for power generation — which again brings us back to rain. So we watch the weather carefully. Also, too much wind can cause trees to fall on our micro-hydro penstock, thus rearranging our priorities while we repair the damage.

4)  Getting involved in the community as a volunteer is a great way to build a satisfying social life in a small, rural place. Neighbours more easily get to know each other by working together on projects that benefit the community as a whole. Both Linda and I have participated in several community organizations since 2001, which is when our house finally reached the move-in point and our focus could shift outward.

5)  Being involved in our community has also helped us find suitable economic niches locally. Rural livelihoods must be carefully grown and nurtured, because there’s obviously a lot fewer job opportunities in a place like Texada than in a city. Given the ups and downs of global economic life in the last decade, we’ve reinvented ourselves economically multiple times since we moved to Texada. Economic flexibility, and a certain amount of related anxiety that keeps us awake to new possibilities, is a way of life for us.

6)  We’ve been asked countless times what it was like to move here from Los Angeles, and whether we miss anything from city life. Looking back on these last 10 years I can honestly say that for me and Linda it was first a relief and then a joy to become full-time Texadans. The time has passed quickly because we’ve always got so much happening here that it simply does not occur to us that we are missing anything, especially from some over-grown megalopolis like LA.

7)  If we have learned anything about island life in the last 10 years, it is the need for patience. Not only does off-island travel need to be planned around someone else’s schedule (BC Ferries, for instance), but it takes patience to live with others in a small community. Not everyone is like-minded; disagreements and perceived slights — often unintended — happen. Eventually we learn that life in a small community is better if we’re patient with each other and learn the arts of forgiveness, compromise and consensus. This is an ongoing challenge, but quite worthwhile and satisfying when we’re successful.

All in all, by and by, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Post facto

May 2010
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