One day this season of treeplant, stuck in the bush off Jackpine road, the cooks beg our camp boss to pick up a two liter bottle of tonic on his trip into town. "Come on," I plead. "Do it for the family. If I'm happy, the family's happy!" He relents and returns with the tonic, and other than the bugs and the rain and the shitty block and whatever various camp drama is currently unfolding, the family is indeed happy.
The world feels as if it is drawing in around me sometimes. L & K, whom I've done multiple tree and cherry seasons with, get stranded in Ukee with a broken down van and K's university roomie. Fortuitously, I've just rolled into town with Wanda the van and turn tail to go and pick them up from Long Beach where they've been surfing. Upon arrival, K goes to introduce me to his roomie... but we've known each other since 2011 in Toronto-his brother is my ex's best friend. The odds of meeting up across the country on a beach outside of Tofino... "The world's not getting smaller," somebody says one afternoon at Cholla. "The family's getting bigger."
The next day, arriving at the hippie commune outside of Tofino where I plan to work on the van for a few days, I don't anticipate seeing anybody I know. But after a few hours there three of the Quebec girls I picked with this past season at Cholla roll up. I'm sitting in the van reading and think I hear J's voice, but brush it off until I see her car roll by with the Quebec plates and the frantic waving of the two cousins out the back window in my general direction.
Where I am right now is pretty much every parent's worst nightmare although I'm drawing in on thirty and farther away from twenty or my teens. Poole's Land, subject of numerous documentaries, Vice articles, complaints from townspeople, whispered rumours, elated exclamations and the subject of the statement "It's a weird place, man," from the Hitch Hiking Accordion Player. The first person I meet upon arrival, other than the check in clerk who tells me where I can find the weed and mushrooms, is Sailor Steve, who does, indeed, look rather piratey with his gold tooth and dreadlock topknot and tattoos. He very kindly backs the van into a parking space for me, as I am evidently struggling with the rabbits warren of narrow, winding roads littered with vans, trucks, cars, campers that haven't moved in decades, vehicles in various states of disrepair, roadside tents, the Magic Bus, surfboards and bicycles.
Everywhere there is some project going on. Hammering, sawing, drilling; an eager if undisciplined group is building a small, off grid house. Singing, strumming, flutes, boardwalk repairs, cooking in the communal kitchen, cleaning up trash, sewing, reading, writing. There is access to all the tools I will need to complete my van project as well as the knowledge and assistance of those who actually know how to use them and the space to work. GiGi finds me in the kitchen and asks if I'm a cook. "Yes," I venture. "Are you staying?" she asks. I'm here for two days for now, but she thinks it will be longer and asks me to get involved in the community dinners they do a few times a week with a pay what you can mandate. I'm eager to be involved but also hesitant to set roots down and become sentimental and attached to the revolving door of people who come and go and the seaspray coast and the town and the community garden of pot and tomatoes and lettuce and the vehicles and the sailors and the everything. I think I will have to return to the Okanagan to find work for the fall, of some seasonal variety, and to pick up Jude in Vernon.
On my way to bed, winding along the decaying boardwalk through the rainforest, I pass by a group sitting around a campfire outside one of the semi-permanent structures littered throughout the land. The Comfortably Sauvage. They are setting up an open mic night and a legit microphone has appeared, the extension cord snaking off through the ferns and redwoods toward some unknown power source. Fairy lights glitter in the trees and as I pass by they are all applauding a duet who grasp their guitars and blush, feral red cheeks in the rainforest evening.
The Magic Bus
Poole's Land 2018