In Sechelt, the world was paint for the canvas of my imagination. A brush a mile long could stroke through my thoughts and leave a trail there, bold and green like the woods around me. We memorized the trails and befriended the back-ways, particularly the one that led to the corner store where paradisal plastic boxes filled with gummy candy lay waiting for our eager pennies. The world was a walk – a road-tale that unrolled under the short strides of our sesquipedalian legs. Dirt byways where any nook might conceal a world unknown – this was the fertile soil that my mind buried itself in. It was like some great careless king had spilled open a marvelous green treasure chest, and a living, dancing story had tumbled out. My young mind was printed out in letters as large as the free blue sky and sea. I have lived my life looking out since: looking for places where none have gone before, looking for secrets, looking for adventure.
The other major face that loomed large in our life was the ocean. A multitude of beaches sat waiting to be explored, seeing as we lived on a peninsula. One shingled stretch we called pebble beach, innocent of the copyright on the name: we just called it that because it only had pebbles. We collected driftwood and made little huts. On another beach, we turned over boulders, straining our little legs and arms, gleefully scrabbling to scoop up the dime-sized crabs that scuttled everywhere like drops of animated mud. When we had buckets full of the tiny arthropods, we would dump them out again, disoriented and irascible: a hardshelled, pinching tide of pointy pebbles. We never swam in the ocean, because it was cold and dirty: the beach itself offered far better opportunities for discovery. Once, during an unusually low tide, in a rock outcropping we found a tiny cave, not a cave, but a blowhole actually, rubbed smooth by the grating sea, and specked with barnacles. My grandpa held me up to the hole, and I followed the path the water took, up through the rock, and back into the gray sunlight. We looked for it many times after that. We never found it again.
At another beach, far different from the steep shores of pebble beach, mud flats oozed out to the distant waterline. We would find sand-dollars, and hermit crabs muttering their way from pool to pool. The tongue-dug clam holes would spit water at my sister and I as we tiptoed over their home-made minefields. Reticent-looking, slumped cormorants on tarred posts that leaned out of the water all askew surveyed the beach grumpily. Paradise.