I am sitting here in the Maple leaf Lounge at Vancouver’s airport, waiting for a flight that will take me and Carroll back to Ottawa after a whirlwind visit to Vancouver Island. A couple of months ago I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Victoria chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims on Saturday 2 April. I was delighted to be able to accept. Since Carroll and I had very little experience of the Island, we decided to make it a short holiday as well.
We flew out on 30 March in time to attend the annual Moreuil Wood lunch of the Armoured Corps in Victoria, where we met friends whom we had not seen, in some cases, since the ‘60s. Following that, we went off to stay with Mary Virtue and her delightful husband Les Foster, who put us up for the time we were there. On Thursday we drove up to Comox, where we spent an overnight with old friends (and a fellow helicopter pilot from Germany) Bob and Joyce Goldie. Their daughter Lauren drove up from Victoria to spend the evening with us. She now has beautiful grown daughters. The last time we saw Lauren (who was then Laurie), she was a tall gawky pre-teen, already showing signs of her beauty.
En route to Comox, we visited Chemainus, where the town has commissioned wonderful mosaics on many of the stores’ exterior walls. We also visited Cathedral Grove, a stand of preserved old-growth forest. Some of the trees there are over 800 years old. It felt like a visit to Jurassic Park and I kind of expected to see dinosaurs peeking around these enormous trees. I cannot imagine what it must have been like when the island and much of the mainland was covered in these awe-inspiring trees. I want to come back, find one of these stands of old-growth forest, then sit in it for a few hours to feel whatever feelings come up.
On Saturday, we spent the day at the Salvation Army Citadel, with about 140 caminophiles. About a third had already walked the Camino de Santiago and the other two-thirds want to. I spoke immediately after lunch, and the audience’s enthusiastic feedback inspired me to new heights. After four years I still love telling the story and it was enormously gratifying to have a welcoming audience. (I also sold a lot of copies of the book, A Journey of Days!).
Riding on a high note, Carroll and I went off on Sunday morning to have lunch with Gene and Claudette Lake, an old military friend from Germany days. It was Gene who had suggested, when he discovered I was coming out to Victoria to speak, that I get in touch with Cadboro Bay Books. Patricia, the owner, was very gracious and set up a reading for Sunday afternoon. The tiny store was filled to overflowing and the audience was attentive, then asked all kinds of questions. One person told me that it was like I was speaking directly to them. I find that kind of comment very satisfying, since it means that I have really reached them.
So now it is only a week until I leave. Almost time to panic!