Sunday, August 1, 2010

suffused with vague melancholy

And, unfortunately, the hint of a migraine. But first, the melancholy.

Yesterday I drove the boy and a friend out to the Sooke property so they could camp (real campsites are all fully booked over the holiday weekend).

Backstory: in the early '80s, Mark and I lived on a logged-over piece of mountain near the Sooke Potholes. No electricity, no running water, 5 miles up a dirt road and 3/4 mile past a locked gate. The first year in a 16 ft trailer with a propane fridge and stovetop, but no heat or insulation. The second year the same with a kerosene heater. After that we built a one-room cabin with lots of insulation and a woodstove. Luxury!
But with an increasingly active toddler, being 6 miles from the nearest telephone / health clinic / bus stop looked less and less like a good or safe idea. So we moved into town, and I can bike to work in about 20 minutes instead of walking 6 miles to the bus at 5 am and (if I made the right connections) getting into work about 8 am.
But we still have a 1/3 share in 30 acres, despite some attempt to sell it over the years. And I still remember toting water in by hand, sitting on the front step shooting at the feral goats with a pellet gun (stinging them in the flank so they'd stop eating the clover), cross-country skiing to reach the house when the snow closed off the logging road, propping my feet up in the oven part of the woodstove to warm up, and so on. Yeah, nostalgia.
In the 20ish years since we moved into town, things have changed, obviously. Sooke has gotten bigger, the dirt road has been paved, forest and pasture have been turned into housing developments. Yet enough is the same to make the experience more disconcerting than entirely alien.

I took the old route, not the highway, and found my muscle-memory of the winding road through Colwood, Metchosin, etc. came right back. But once we crossed the bridge (now two lanes) and started up Phillip Road, I was as lost as one can be on a road that only goes to one place. From narrow, winding, gravel road with trees or drop-off on the side, it had become mostly two-lane, paved, with big houses in wooded lots or prefab subdivision. Instead of a tall double chainlink gate with a heavy chain, there was a simple bar gate standing open. And the trees I used to park under (when the snow meant I shouldn't try the hill), there was open land at the bottom of the hill.
Naturally, we drove right past this, and went all the way to the end of Phillip Road, where I guess Hoom's garlic farm used to be, which is now a nice little hobby-farm sort of place, very tidy and freshly painted.
So, back again, and this time we spotted the drive, not quite so steep as it used to be, but just as narrow, overgrown on each side, bushes tangling into hedges. I ended up driving to the edge of our parcel, marked by the goat-shed just before the swamp (the flat part of our property is the swamp - the rest is rock). I probably could have driven the rest of the way, but could I have turned around once I got there?

The swamp is pretty dry this time of year, and while the alder hadn't grown up over the road, the brush had grown up enough that one couldn't see very far off the road. The flat spot where the trailer stood and where the well was drilled was entirely overgrown, and the path we made from trailer to cabin was gone. Instead, Chris led the way up to the back of the cabin.
And it's still standing, though someone has looted out the woodstove - at least replacing it with a fireplace stove so one could have heat if not cook or bake (I'm still proud that I have baked cookies and more in a woodstove). And somebody else apparently tried to build a brick hearth on the floor. One window is broken, and the damp has caused the ceiling drywall to drop flakes of plaster over everything. But the cabin is still there, and could probably be made liveable again without immense labour.
I wanted to sweep up the plaster and push the odd bits of other people's furniture against the wall and tidy, but that would have been pointless. It isnt' the place we lived anymore. The north wall is not one huge bookcase (books=insulation). The big table isn't taking up half of the east wall. The woodstove is gone, and broom has grown up where we planted clover.

So I left Chris reacquainting himself with the remnants of his babyhood home, and drove back to Victoria. Then I drove with Mark to the airport to drop him off for his flight to Pennsylvania, where he'll be for two weeks, for the Pennsic War.
By the time I got home, I felt achey and glum, even though I have two weeks of the house to myself, and spreading my projects and books over all available horizontal surfaces. I don't know whether it was the driving or arthritis or the sense of time passing and places lost in the flow.

Arthritis update: right hip and left elbow. The latter a twinge now and then, the former occasionally interfering with sleep. Enough generalised achiness today to justify a Naproxen and a hot bath.


Terri-Lynne said...

Ah, nostalgia. Looming September always fills me with it, no matter where I am in my life.

Enjoy your two weeks of solitude. It will go by too quickly.

batgirl said...

Whoosh, it is going by already! Why do I always think I can get a lot done just because Mark is away?

Terri-Lynne said...

It SEEMS like a possibility, and then we realize our men aren't REALLY the reason we don't get a lot of what we wish to done.

I hate when a scapegoat is revealed false!