Thursday, 6 November 2014

Full Circle

This is most probably my final Canada blog (only a half a year late!). It looks back to our group trip to Galiano Island in April:

I woke up groggily to the sound of rain hammering on the sloping roof of our bedroom and grudgingly hauled myself out of bed. Whose idea was it to meet at A Rocha at 7 am to pack up the vehicles and discuss the days ahead before making it to the 10 am ferry to Galiano Island? The past few days had been a blur of presentations, frantic food preparation, late night cake baking and packing, and I was tired and in no mood for an adventure. As I helped pack the trucks in the steady rain I couldn't help but be reminded of the start of my last visit to Galiano Island seven months previously in the middle of a fierce storm. I'd been similarly tired and damp and inwardly unenthusiastic following the brilliant but insanely wet Run for the River and a busy time settling into life in Canada. But I also remembered how much I'd loved that trip and, having consumed enough tea I was ready for the off!

As I stepped inside Mary-Ruth and Loren Wilkinson's home I felt as though I was greeting an old friend, and I loved watching first time visitors as they relaxed into the place.

After lunch we took a trip down the coast in the boats to find out how the Galiano Conservancy was doing in their efforts to deal with the booming deer population.

Out for a row in the longboat, eat your heart out boaties!

Keeping the rhythm going...

The Galiano Conservancy's new deer exclosure.

On the beach with Mossy, the Wilkinson's lovely young Collie.

One team rowed the boat down to the Conservancy, whilst the other team hitched a ride in the van. I went out in the boat first. It was good to be back rowing again, I picked up the rhythm more easily this time and felt confident despite the powerful wind, large waves and and intimidatingly heavy oars. We arrived in good time and took a stroll around the Conservancy to look at the newly constructed deer fences and the plan was for the second team to sail with the wind back to the Wilkinson's home, whilst we caught the van back.

We had plenty of time to explore and settle in whilst waiting for the those sailing to make it back. The wind had changed whilst we were at the Conservancy, and the team attempting to sail back had found themselves in a precarious position caught by the wind and strong waves which pushed them further from home. Only through patient endurance and no small amount of courage did they manage to start making headway against the wind.

Back at the Wilkinson's, oblivious to the situation of the sailing team, we set about getting dinner ready. But after a while, concerned that our friends seemed to have been out in the boat for a rather long time, we ventured back outside to watch for them.

Cheerful tin-opening!

Where could they be?

Before we could get too alarmed, we sighted them in the distance making their way steadily homeward. They arrived back shaken but exhilarated and deeply thankful for their safe delivery from the brewing storm.

The next morning the rain and winds had quietened, leaving a dazzlingly bright spring morning in their place.

A view of the now peaceful sea.

Helping in the vegetable garden.

Apple blossom.

Relaxing with the daisies.

We enjoyed the beautiful weather and our time working on the boats, sanding, repainting and coating them (and ourselves!) with pine tar and varnish.

Working on (and under!) the boats.

Such fun!

On the final morning, the weather was better than forecast and we set off to climb Bodega ridge, the spine of Galiano Island. I was pleased to find myself climbing the ridge again seven months on, and pleasantly surprised by the weather, and the subsequent breath-taking views. The swallows flitted around the trees and turkey vultures soared on huge wings down below us. It was a chance to bask in the warmth of spring and reflect on the end of our time on Galiano Island, and for many of us the end of our internship. A time to think about what home is, reflect on the home we would soon be leaving behind and lament that the time for goodbyes was upon us. But a time to look forward in excitement as we returned to old, familiar homes, or ventured forth to as yet undiscovered new places, soon to become home.

The view from the top in September

The view from the top in April

The view towards Vancouver Island

A time to reflect.

'I want to travel in patterns of God's making'

Whilst we were up on the ridge, one poem I read particularly resonated with me. I had no idea what I would be returning to in the UK. I had patiently explored and applied for a number of different opportunities to study or work, but had not yet heard back from any direction. It was a little unsettling. I remember feeling just the same during my final year of University: nothing lined up and no obvious directions to go in. The same anxieties crept in that perhaps I was never going to find anything to do, that no one would ever give me a job, that I would be a failure, that I should be doing something more conventional with my life.

But since graduation I have faced challenges and illness, homesickness, and the pain of leaving dear friends and family behind in other countries. I have shared tears and laughter, fallen in rivers, fallen off climbing frames, tripped over logs, learned to bake mince pies, evicted hundreds of ladybirds from my bedroom, caught fish and frogs, helped people to see the beauty in nature and the awe in science, searched for flowers, fed wolves, fed a bear, learned the names of countless plants and the calls of countless birds, learned to cook for 40 and cleaned three ovens. I have never once had nothing to do and I certainly don't regret the unconventional decisions.

What have we to fear? With every step we are each called simply to love, serve and follow God; to journey onwards, trusting that He will catch us as we stumble, and protect our hearts as we face trials. Why? Because He loves us, and always will do. He is the Rock, A Rocha, the solid ground upon which we can depend. 'I want to travel in patterns of God's making' and while I do so, I will never be going nowhere with my life.

"Some people travel in straight lines:
Sat in metal boxes, eyes ahead,
Always mindful of their target,
Moving in obedience to coloured lights and white lines,
Mission accomplished at journey's end.

Some people travel round in circles:
Trudging in drudgery, eyes looking down,
Knowing only too well their daily, unchanging round,
Moving in response to clock and to habit,
Journey never finished yet never begun.

I want to travel in patterns of God's making:
Walking in wonder, gazing all around,
Knowing my destiny, though not my destination,
Moving to the rhythm of the surging of his spirit,
A journey which when life ends, in Christ has just begun."

- Julie McGuiness

Friday, 31 October 2014

More Adventures in Canada

So the spring weather in Canada rolled on to the full heat of a Canadian summer, with my parents joining me in pretty much the nicest week weather-wise of my entire time in Canada. There were plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventures. And it was lovely for them to be able to meet the A Rocha community, join in with a volunteer day, come to our music night and cook pizza for dinner in the cob oven. I'm not going to say a lot, but thought I'd share some of the beautiful pictures from spring and early summer adventures in Canada! Enjoy!

Red elderberry against a very blue sky during survey work.

More blue skies and a willow, taken whilst Salish Sucker trapping.

Salmonberry, probably my favourite flower!

Bleeding Heart, these little plants carpet the forest floor at this time of year.

Trillium, it turns pinky-purple once it has been fertilised!

The magnolia flowers at Brooksdale are wearing little Wizard hats for some reason...

Beautiful fungus, oddly reminiscent of the weathered rock of the Grand Canyon!

Driving down 0 Ave: 'and on our left the USA, on our right Canada!'

A big old rootstock at Lynn Canyon

Don't look down? Lynn Canyon

That's right, just smile at the camera! Lynn Canyon

Roaring blue water, Lynn Canyon

So inviting, and so very icy!

Rickety bridge at Lynn Canyon...

My parents and I explored Stanley Park and walked around the seawall in the baking hot weather:

The Inukshuk in English Bay

Through the Inukshuk

Is it a bird? Is it a rock?

Rock balancing skills

The view from Stanley Park

Stanley Park Totem Poles
Lunch on the beach...

We also ventured further from home, out to the gulf islands:

A much less snowy Saltspring Island!

Dad practising his new found rock balancing talent.

I found a miniature Balrog (or something) living on the seaweed...

A sand dollar! (like a flat sort of sea urchin)

The island way of life...

And we ventured even further afield, up the Sea to Sky highway all the way to Whistler!

Beautiful mountains, but it felt far too hot for there to be any snow left at all!

Confused: last time I was here, I was 15 and there was a lot more snow!

A Steller's Jay on the trails around Lost Lake, Whistler

Dinner in Whistler

The sun was starting to set when we stopped at the stunning Shannon Falls, the third highest falls of BC

My parents' visit was also a good chance to share some of the places local to A Rocha that were close to my heart:

Early evening on the pier at White Rock.

Charming the chickadees in Campbell Valley Regional Park

Mum's favourite: the Douglas Squirrel

At the end of the week, I spent some time saying farewell to A Rocha Brooksdale and the people who live there, and then my parents and I set off to Vancouver Airport, for the flight back to Manchester. It's been a wonderful eight months, and I was sad to be leaving. But even though new adventures beckoned back in the UK, it certainly didn't feel like goodbye for ever...

Until the next time Canada!