A Love Letter to Tofino

beach soccerI remember the beaches stretching out forever, the distant edges shrouded in mist. I remember playing for hours in the surf, oblivious to the cold, or turning cartwheels down the beach, one after another until I was dizzy and giddy with laughter. I remember the stars hanging low over our heads, bright and miraculous against the black of the night. I remember summer evenings, the full moon rising heavy out of the sea, and late-night walks on the beach, our every footstep lighting with late-August bioluminescence. I remember being here in storm season, the winds howling and the rain nearly horizontal. I’ve been here for hail storms and snow storms and days so cold and foggy we were chilled to the bone.  And I remember the gift of a perfect, calm, sunny day in the middle of January or the beginning of April, or a sunset so spectacular it could take your breath away.


I have had a life-long love affair with Pacific Rim National Park and the surrounding towns and beaches. I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl, back to the days when you could still camp on the beach at Green Point, to the days before Tofino was filled with surf shops and art galleries and award-winning restaurants. Over the span of forty years, I’ve returned here year after year, and sometimes season after season.

December Storm

I remember the summer my dad couldn’t come with us, and so my mom, a nervous driver at the best of time, bravely towed our tent trailer over the mountain passes and through the dangerous twists and curves of the narrow Pacific Rim Highway, so that we could have our summer holiday on the west coast.

joyfulI remember coming here as a teenager and a young woman, as a new mom with little ones in tow. And in the years since my divorce, I’ve brought my boys here a number of times, often with my closest friends and their kids. We’ve walked the length of every beach, splashed in the waves, played bocci and beach soccer, sat late around beach fires. The two older boys have learned to surf here.

Eight-year old surfer boy, January on Chesterman Beach

Eight-year old surfer boy, January on Chesterman Beach

surf dudessurf kids










And last summer, it was here that Will and I got married.

wedding dayThese beaches have often been a Spring Break destination for us, and as my birthday usually falls over the break, I have celebrated my birthday here a number of times. I’ll be here for my birthday this year, too. And I can’t think of a place I’d rather be.



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Commandeering the Canon

lighthouseI wrote yesterday about how my boys commandeered my camera while we were at Chesterman Beach. Having downloaded their photos, I was impressed, and thought I’d share a few with you. The one above is my favourite among the (many) wave photos my 15 year old captured. The ones below are a couple of other interesting close ups. (I’ll spare you the photos of his shoes. He always takes photos of his shoes…)








And here are a few that the ten year old took:

musselmom and son







And do please note his photo of me (below), relegated to taking photos with the iPhone. Sigh…

iphoneToday the Canon is mine!!

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Budding Photographers

frank-islandThe waves roll in fast and grey as the sky, crashing violently against the rocks at the far edge of Frank Island. Though I know he’s well back from the water, I’m watching my middle son a bit anxiously as he stands on a rocky outcrop, capturing the waves with my camera. We’ve driven up to Tofino for a Spring Break getaway, and walked out from Chesterman Beach to Frank Island, a spot you can only get to when the tides are low. Here on the far edge of the West coast, the landscape is wild and dramatic. It’s one of my favourite places to photograph, but – alas – my boys have claimed my camera. And I am left to take photographs on my iPhone instead.

tofino wavesI’d like to have my camera in hand, especially in a place as wild and beautiful as this. But last night as we were having dinner, my middle son confessed that his dream job would be to become a National Geographic photographer. He’s a kid who loves the wilderness, who attends to the beauty around him, and who loves to get his hands on my camera. He could absolutely become a photographer.

Frank Island Reflections And so, as he experiments with my beloved Canon, I make do with my iPhone, capturing the beauty of this place as best I can and hoping that he’ll tire of taking photos soon.

chesterman beachBut as we head back towards Chesterman Beach, negotiating the rocky terrain and the many tide pools of Frank Island, my budding photographer notices that his little brother is looking longingly at the camera.

“Here, buddy. Do you want to take some pictures?”

His little brother’s eyes light up and a grin spreads across his face. And the next thing I know, my camera has been passed on to my youngest son so that he can take some photographs too.


As we wander further along North Chesterman beach, I see a photographer setting up his professional-looking camera on a tripod and adjusting the huge zoom lens.

I look longingly at my camera, being used by my youngest son to photograph a broken sand dollar. I look down at my iPhone. I have camera envy.

North Chesterman

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magnoliaWandering along a side street in Victoria today, I was entranced by these magnificent magnolia blossoms, a deep, vivid pink and nearly as big as dinner plates.  I’d headed out with camera in hand, intent on capturing the first cherry blossoms of the season; but it was the magnolias that demanded my attention today, magnolias in shades of white and palest pink and fuschia, their blooms unfolding from fuzzy pods, opening before the first leaves.

magnolia2Victoria is heavenly at this time of year, as the magnolia and forsythia bloom, and the first cherry blossoms appear. There is such beauty and such promise in early spring; and after a couple of hours meandering in the sunshine and photographing the first blossoms, I feel utterly elated, suffused with joy.

I’m out with my camera on a very deliberate mission: I have an afternoon all to myself, to enjoy the sunshine and do something creative. I’m giving myself permission just to play. This is my year for lavish self care. I’m eating well and meditating and practicing yoga; I’m allowing myself to explore my creativity in multiple ways, including writing and photography; and when the sun shines, I’m trying, whenever possible, to get outside and soak it up. 

And it feels amazing. As I focus on my health and well being, as I explore my creative impulses and let myself
play, I feel myself opening up; like the magnolias, I too am beginning to blossom.


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Fifty Shades of Green

green1It’s rained all winter here, days on end of mild and misty grey, and always, the drip – or drum – of rain in the trees. One of the great gifts of living in the temperate rain forest is that even in the grey, there is always green; green in the heavy boughs of cedar, weighted and wet; green in the shaggy moss and bright ground cover; green in the glossy leaves of the arbutus. Even though it’s grey, there is always green.

green3And then, the sun shines, and the forest comes alive, a thousand shades of verdant green. The sunlight slants between the highest boughs of cedar and fir, and bounces off the sword ferns and salal and Oregon grape; it illuminates the fat carpets of deep green moss and shines through delicate lichens. The muted darkness of the forest is transformed.

green5 And as I revel in this beauty, I think of e e cummings’ words, a perfect prayer for the woods: “i thank You God for most this amazing/ day;  for the leaping greenly spirits of trees/ and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything/ which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”


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Mom’s Taxi: A Valentine for My 15 Year Old Son

My boyHere’s how I spent Valentine’s Day: driving my 15 year old son all over the Victoria area, delivering him to appointments and helping him with a number of errands. We started out around 9 am, which is pretty early for a 15-year old on a Saturday morning. He wandered down the stairs, bleary-eyed  and still rumpled from sleep, and gave me a big hug. He has always been cuddly and I love that at 15, he still deigns to hug his mom. He had a quick breakfast and then began his work for the day.

And he does have work to do. In September, his rugby team is going on tour to England and Wales during the Rugby World Cup. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity. He’ll be playing against other schoolboy sides, but he’ll also get to attend a couple of World Cup games. One of the ways he’s raising money is by recycling bottles for family and friends. It is sticky (and stinky!) work, but surprisingly lucrative. And he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to raise the money for this trip.


g2My boy discovered rugby a couple of years ago, when he played on his middle school’s team. Within months, he had forsworn his first love, soccer, and dedicated himself completely to his new passion. When September rolled around that year, he walked away from years of soccer, and signed up for club rugby. It didn’t matter that he was the least experienced player on the team. It didn’t matter that he spent most of that first season on the sidelines. It didn’t matter that the closest club team was a forty minute drive from home. He loved the game. He loved the camaraderie of the team, the loyalty. He loved this “game of thugs, played by gentlemen.”

rugbyHe applied himself to learning the game, everything from passing the ball to tackling to kicking. He practiced hard and spent countless hours with Will, who is a rugby coach, and on his own, learning to kick for conversion. By the time the next school season came around, he had the skill and the quiet confidence to captain his school team through a strong season. By July, he made the team that represented the lower island at the provincial championships.

SMUSAlong the way we have all watched proudly, awed by his determination and focus. We’ve cheered him on from the sidelines, driven him back and forth to at least three practices and one game a week, washed his stinky gear, and replaced countless mouth guards. (If only I had known, I would have invested in a company producing mouth guards).  And on Valentine’s Day, I spent my day driving him around yet again, another day in service to rugby. We loaded up the van with our empties, then headed to a friend’s to pick up their empties too. From there, we hit the recycling depot where we sorted and recycled the bottles, and then raced across town to get my boy to the gym for a workout. From the gym, we had to go to the bank, so he could transfer money for his trip into my bank account, and then off to the sporting goods store to purchase – you guessed it – a new mouth guard.

conversionFor years, I’d see those bumper stickers that read, “Mom’s Taxi,” and dread the day when that would be my life. Well, that time has come. But here is what I didn’t realize, the secret of every mother of a busy teenager: being “Mom’s Taxi” is actually a privilege. I am happy to drive, because my boy, at 15, is so busy in his life, that if I weren’t driving him, I would hardly see him. Driving him around, I have precious time with him, time to check in and talk, time to listen to his stories, time to laugh and connect. The teenage years are fleeting and so I’m savouring this time with my boy. Even if most of it is on the highway.

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Signs of Spring

spring spirea

The mild air, sea-damp and briny, washes over me as I head out into the woods. Above me, I hear the flutter and rustle of first birds, branches waving as a stellar jay shrieks and takes flight. Pale green leaves unfurl on delicate branches, and the first fragile blossoms of bridal veil spirea unfold, weighted by raindrops. Around me, I hear the ancient creak of a solitary frog, the layers and layers of variegated birdsong, the clear green notes of an early robin.

Spring , in all its promise, in all its rapture, is on its way.

I only need to slow down and pay attention.

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