Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Going Postal

I'll make this quick. A few weeks ago I flew from San Francisco to Seattle, hopped a high speed passenger ferry to Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, and spent eight days exploring Vancouver Island with my sister Molly and our good family friend Mike. Much more on that most enjoyable, extraordinary and eye-opening adventure in a later Headlands Report post, I promise, but right now, for the time being, let me entertain you with a brief tale about what just showed up in the mail.

Mike and Molly are both incredibly dedicated and talented art teachers in Cleveland, Ohio. When I met them in Victoria they were in the midst of a two-and-a-half-month summer road trip that included a serene, five-day paddle down the Wild and Scenic Missouri River (twice, they loved it so much), four weeks camping in the Canadian Rocky Mountains Parks of Banff and Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, and just over three weeks on Vancouver Island proper, which, I learned during my in-depth, pre-trip research, is the largest island on the west coast of North America. They're still out there as I write this, leaving smiles as well as exhaust in every town they visit, though by now should be pointed back in the general direction of Ohio.

As part of her summertime extravaganza Molly preregistered for a week-long continuing education ceramics course with a renowned Canadian artist at Pearson College in Metchosin, a small town about 40 minutes west of Victoria. I booked my travel dates to coincide with the end of her commitment at the college, thus my first three days were spent in the cozy little cottage she had booked for the week, and my first three nights were spent sleeping on a very comfortable living room day bed. Oh how I loved that little bed, and each night, after a full day of hiking and swimming and kayaking and the like, I slept like a rock.

This isn't as brief as I had hoped, but I'm getting there.

When Molly's class drew to a close we tidied up the cottage, locked the doors, waved bye-bye and set our sights on North Vancouver Island, a full half-day drive away. For the ensuing five nights we camped at two extraordinary waterside sites on the northeast coast (sites we hadn't booked in advance and just kinda lucked into): the first plopped right on Discovery Passage in the salmon-fishing-crazy town of Campbell River; the second, for four nights, smack dab on Broughton Strait north of Port McNeill. Beautiful, yes - watery and wild and wonderful and utterly beachside and somebody fucking pinch me I loved it so much - but my bed was no longer tucked beneath the roof of a cozy little cottage. My bed was a blue air mattress and sleeping bag (thank you, Mike) inside the back of Molly's Honda Element. Not so comfy. Don't get me wrong, it was perfectly fine - so worth it to wake up each morning exactly where we were, and plus they supplied it all for me - but I couldn't really stretch out, and I was cold during the night and stiff and creaky in the morning. But hell, at age 54 I'm usually a little stiff and creaky in the morning.

Which brings me finally to the meat of the matter, I hope; the point of this post, which is not about sleeping here or sleeping there, and not about sleeping on this or on that, but instead about sleeping alongside my fun-seeking, laughter-loving, slightly whacked-out sister and her whacked-out buddy Mike. Camping with them (loved it!) and, oh yeah, with the two healthy, pretty, smiling Earthlings pictured below.

As you can plainly see they are indeed a picture, cut from a sturdy cardboard box that contained, if you look again in the lower righthand corner, the aforementioned air mattress on which I slept. I'm not sure what inspires a human mind to one moment look at a marketing image on disposable packaging and the very next moment imagine a whole new "Wilson"-like character and scenario (you remember Tom Hanks' soccer ball friend in the movie Survivor, right?), but soon after camp happened the handsome couple magically appeared, propped up in-between the slats of our rickety picnic table like they were settling in for an evening around the campfire, ready for some soul-searching talk and eager to roast up some S'mores. Kinda twisted, eh? Of course I didn't notice them at first, didn't notice them until Mike said to me, "Peter, how rude…you're not going to ignore our new friends, are you?" Oh my god I cracked up that first time, and I broke into a smile every time I looked over and saw them sitting at the table (and yup they sat there until I left...probably after that, too).

I cracked up again the other day - chuckled and shook my head in amused and amazed wonder - cracked up when, just back from a two-day wine festival stay on the west Sonoma coast, I sifted through my mail and found a very personal, hand-drawn, one-of-a-kind postcard (see above) tucked in-between the usual flyers, offers and other junk. A postcard from Canada, from Vancouver Island, from Mike and Molly, that brought back a flood of already cherished memories; a postcard that, in its previous life as a box, had seen some serious miles on the open road, seen the Rocky Mountains and Salish Sea, seen some bears and eagles and orca; a postcard that, on the flip side, still depicts the happy, healthy, handsome faces of two imaginary campground friends relaxing on a blue blowup air mattress. Hell, let's call it what it is…an old piece of cardboard that wasn't discarded, that for some reason wasn't burned in a last and final campfire on the shore of beautiful Broughton Strait when a pair of wacky, talented artists packed up their gear and hit the road again. Did they prop up the handsome couple in the back seat of Molly's car, or perhaps rest their permanently smiling faces on the dashboard? Who knows, but that pair of artists obviously had another idea in mind, one that ultimately involved some pen and ink and paint and stamps and Canada Post.

Thank you, Molly and Mike…it's SO friggin' cute! The rest of you, if you haven't already had the pleasure, hightail it sooner than later to Vancouver Island. You won't be disappointed.

Peace out.
Peter J. Palmer
aka Siwidi (more on that later)