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#73 A journey to the Big Smoke

October 17th, 2017

I was in the Lower Mainland for a week, visiting my youngest son. He has sarcoma stage four, inoperable, and it was raw agony to see him so reduced and stricken.

He was always so athletic, played sports, ran, went fishing, always on the go and now he is a skeleton draped in skin. He can no longer speak or swallow, has a feeding tube and the pain level is so high his medication dose would drop an elk. Even so, we had a good visit, and I managed to not shriek or take the vapours or in any other way disgrace us all.

In spite of the horrific situation we had some jokes, some laughs; he has a “tablet” and can write messages. It’s a slower process than conversation but effective.

I’d guess that most of the folk who read your excellent magazine(s), paper and virtual, live in the lower mainland. They deserve medals, they really do. The noise, my dear gawd, the noise, it’s like a living thing which never sleeps.

I felt battered by the noise. Hey, I live in a village of maybe 250 people, most of whom mind their own business and behave themselves!  And suddenly it was car after car after truck after…zoom zoom zoom, everyone racing ahead to the next red stop light.

I don’t know how you guys manage but your ability to cope with the noise is truly heroic.

Then, there’s the smell. If I go outside here I can smell fir, cedar, willow, I can smell the sea and the mist which drifts in from it. Today I can smell that wonderful clean scent of rain and that other pervasive perfume of wet grass. Down there in “the big smoke” it’s exhaust fumes and a smell very much like the reek of swampland.


I had everything lined up, arrangements made for MerryMary, the Pug, to stay with a neighbour and at the absolute last minute it all got tossed over the moon. Car was packed, we were rinsing the coffee cups and reaching for jackets and the phone rang… Doggy daycare had come down with a virulent flu, could barely manage to look after herself, couldn’t possibly look after the Pug…

Well. Out to the shed, grab the travel cage, and like it or lump it, MerryMary is coming with me. I expected horror, I expected howling and yapping and hysterics and even some growling and snapping. Well, she was just

fine. Life is full of puzzles. She charmed security people, she wagged her donut of a tail, she smiled at all the nice folk, and you’d have been forgiven for thinking she travels the world all the time.

Same thing on the way back, Ms. Congeniality charming security guards and ticket agents, and then after some to’ing and fro’ing we were in Campbell River and my son Todd was there, smiling and giving me a hug which I’m sure saved if not my life at least the last shreds of sanity. Stopped for a grocery shopping, grabbed a burger to eat in the car and headed home.

Saw elk, elk, and more elk but no sign of any bears. Stopped at Conuma but the river was still shockingly low and only a few fish coming up so we continued on home and some eight to ten miles before we got to Tahsis oh, holy crap! Western Forest Products has logged to the very edge of the road and what a sloppy mess they’re making.

No wonder we saw so many elk, the poor things are being evicted from what has been a winter feeding area. Mess continued on the other side of the road, heading down through bog towards the river.

There is probably a law against that kind of unskilled, wasteful, destructive and ugly logging but nobody seems to come this far north to check on such things so they’ll get away with the mess the way they seem to have got away with the wrecking of the Canton Valley.

Honestly, you’d think they be ashamed of themselves for being such ham-fisted and sloppy loggers. But I guess if they’ve got no pride, they’ll have no shame, either.


I thought I’d done a good job of preparing to be gone. Well, so much for thought. I forgot to un-set the mouse traps. Came home and first order of business was to collect the very dead mice and toss their smelly little corpses up on the roof for the crows. Then, of course, out with the bleach to disinfect the killing fields.

I don’t know what the Chinese calendar says but for us in Tahsis this has been the year of the mice. The resident cougar has eaten most of the house cats and without the house cats… a surge in mouse populations.

I haven’t kept track of how many I’ve caught in snap traps but a neighbour up the road built her own construct which included a bucket of water, a pop can and peanut butter and she has taken out more than a hundred mice this season. Some people have put down poison but I don’t want to do that, if the mouse goes outside to die and the birds find the body… it will be very bad news for the birds…

So, I use snap traps and I’ve only caught my thumb once. That’s enough! President Trump will probably be glad to learn that snap traps made in USA are much better than the made in China ones.

And now the rain is bulleting down, there’s no sound of roaring traffic, just the sound of the rain on the roof. This ought to help refill the rivers and allow the fish to come up to the spawning channels, that should encourage the bears to go to the river and not try to get into people’s cars and houses.

Those of you who live in the city are braver and more resilient than I am. Even if I do have to check my snap trap line daily, I think I’ll stick with this little village and the sound of the rain.


Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.




One Response to “#73 A journey to the Big Smoke”

  1. Nice newsy letter, Anne Cameron. Sorry to hear about your son who is ill.

    I have always thought of the term, \’Big Smoke\’, pertaining only to Toronto, but hey, I guess it could refer to any large city, although I\’m not feeling it right for Vancouver. Just me feeling this way of course. I\’ve named my local city \’The Big Hip\’, and that\’s Nelson BC. Now you all will have to come on in to the interior of British Columbia and check it, Nelson that is, out for yourselves, as to why I call it The Big Hip.It\’s hard to explain, but it\’s true. Blessed autumn rain to us all!

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