A Visitor from California, July 2008
thumbnail In July 2008 my dear friend Irene (from California) visited for a few days -- what a treat! We went for a hike at Pipers Lagoon park near Nanaimo...

thumbnail ... where at low tide a vast oyster bed is exposed. Here I am peering at the large oysters...

thumbnail ... and I do mean large :-)

thumbnail View from Piper's Head; in the distance are the Fingers Rocks, Snake Island, and a BC Ferry.

thumbnail Another typical view from Pipers Head, looking out at the Fingers, at the height of summer. Tough life, eh? I travelled back down to Victoria with Irene so that we could play tourist for a day or two. We stayed at a nice B&B out in Esquimalt (note to non-locals: it's pronounced Esk-WHY-malt) and walked into town...

thumbnail ... along a scenic waterfront promenade where I met this charming cat.

thumbnail We visited the birthplace of Canadian painter and author Emily Carr, which has been preserved and turned into a small museum honouring her life and work.

thumbnail We gawked at the mighty Empress Hotel (which reliable sources tell me is slowly sinking, the local soil being inadequate to support its weight); but we were not inclined to pay a small fortune to have tea in its stiflingly colonial dining room.

thumbnail We went to Miniature World, an old fashioned attraction; parts of it are ghastly-hokey, but some of the dioramas are wonderful, particularly the trains, the scale model sawmill, and the Ringling Brothers Circus layout (Main Street Parade shown here). A delightfully off-kilter museum of obsessive artistry.

thumbnail We felt obliged to go and see the world famous Butchart Gardens -- which as you can see was jampacked with tourists experiencing the same sense of obligation. It was almost as crowded as Disneyland and uncomfortably similar in other ways.

thumbnail I have to admit that the roses were gorgeous. Irene took this photo of a particularly stunning bloom; it had plenty of competion.

thumbnail De sniffing the sweet peas at Butchart Gardens

thumbnail My favourite portion of the Gardens was the Japanese section -- cool, green, shady, and quieter than the more showy areas. Here we sat and picnicked in a little nook by a fountain...

thumbnail ... decorated with bronze cranes or herons.

thumbnail Personally I preferred the real live Great Blue we had seen earlier on the waterfront.

thumbnail The water lily pond was quite pretty, but the most impressive landscaping in the park is the Sunken Garden (used to be a quarry)...

thumbnail ... shown here from the entrance, looking down.

thumbnail It features some magnificent full-grown trees (seen here from the decorative artificial hill in the centre of the garden)...

thumbnail ... an ornamental pond with fountains...

thumbnail ... topiary animals lurking in the shadows, and many other carefully calculated charms.

thumbnail The entire garden at this time of year was -- one would almost say -- a riot of colour. But not really a riot: the plantings are so severely regimented that I joked with Irene, "I get the feeling that any plant that wilts or steps out of line is taken out and shot at dawn." After a few hours wandering around the place we found it strangely oppressive: a tribute to the most authoritarian control of Nature, a prettiness draped over land eviscerated by resource extraction, maintained by enormous artificial inputs, dependent entirely on cheap energy for maintenance. There was something rather spooky about the whole setup, the smileyface papering over the brutality of colonialism perhaps? at any rate we were somewhat relieved to depart. We saw what we had come to see, and maybe a bit more.

thumbnail It was a relief to walk back to Esquimalt along the largly un-regimented shore.

thumbnail Here I sat for a little while bathing my tired feet in relatively clean, cold salt water... home again.

thumbnail My 92 year old friend Malcolm (recently deceased, alas) enjoyed telling Irene some stories about the old days on the BC coast. Irene, as a professional oral historian, was fascinated and wished she could do hours of interviews with him. Malcolm was a fine storyteller with an excellent, detailed memory for people, events, animals, trees.