I’ve never lived anywhere rural before. I’ve always been in places ranging from semi-suburban to full-on city living. So I’ve been really curious to see how I’d feel about this time on Vancouver Island at the KECC. This year, I’ve been craving space and nature and peace and distance from other human beings and noises and chaos. But I’ve also always been a city gal, and wanting to have access to all sorts of fun things. (You can see why I’m at a bit of a crossroads about where I actually want to live permanently.)
Anyway, I’ve also never lived in a nature sanctuary, but I feel like I am right now. There just seems to be more animal activity here than any park or hiking trail or campground I’ve been in. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m noticing more because I’m sitting in one spot more, or getting familiar with the same areas, but it does seem like there’s just… more.
I get up in the mornings, and I make some coffee, and then I take my coffee outside and wander somewhere.
For a while I was starting every morning sitting around hummingbirds. I hadn’t really hung out with hummingbirds much in my life, and they dazzle me, so I’ve been watching them zoom around the fig tree and drink from the fuchsia. When I walk through their territory, they sound their little alarms around me like typewriter keys.
I took a break from the hummingbirds in the morning because it was starting to become a routine, and if there’s one thing hummingbirds shouldn’t be, it’s routine. So sometimes I’ve headed down to the water, where I’ve occasionally spotted a family of four otters fishing and swimming and playing on the beach and up and down the shore and a little stream on the property. I consider it a most auspicious and fantabulous day when I see otters. I would like to learn from them how they make work and play the same thing. (The time I got closest to them, some people came walking along the trail and accidentally scared the otters off. BUT the people had a four-week-old puppy with them, and I got to play with the puppy, so that made up for it. And then as soon as I walked off, I startled a massive freakin’ bald eagle that was on the rocks nearby.)
Sometimes in the mornings, the birds are busy and chirping and squawking and there’s all sorts of action and excitement. Some mornings, I come out and everything is absolutely still. One morning I was sitting outside and everything was hustling and noisy and full of life, starlings and jays and everything – and then everybody went quiet, all at once. I have no idea why. I feel like such a disconnected human at these moments, vaguely aware that there’s something happening in nature that I’m not picking up on. We Westernized humans have become like so-called “free-range” chickens with “access to outdoor space” – we catch only fleeting glimpses of nature, in carefully cultured areas like city parks, for a limited time of the day, and we don’t even know what we don’t know.
I’m still working while I’m here, and looking at my work habits and how I approach the computer. During the day, I try to take regular breaks where I get away from the desk and go outside – much easier to convince myself of that here than it is in the city, where it can feel weird taking a walk if you don’t have a specific destination. A few times lately, I’ve come away from my computer feeling all pissy and frustrated, and then lo and behold the doe is there grazing with her two fawns. They keep an eye on me, but as long as I keep a respectful distance, they’re not too worried. By the time I’ve stood and gazed at them for a while, computer issues seem irrelevant.
By the main house, squirrels are in serious acorn-collecting mode. You can spend all day watching one cross the length of the lawn back and forth, back and forth, finding an acorn and bringing it back, over and over and over. Stellar’s jays yell at you when you get too near. A bunny whirls down the path in a tizzy as you amble along. Quail freak out and flail off in every direction.
A Stellar’s Jay ran into me the other day, actually. I was standing watching it hop nearby and it flew into my pant leg. It didn’t seem to be dive-bombing me or anything; it felt accidental. I don’t know if it just didn’t see me. It might have been acting on a dare from its buddies – with corvids, you never know…
At the bottom of the meadow, there is currently a pile of bear scat about the size of a small dog. And there’s lots of blackberries and apples and plums out at the moment, and many reports of bear sightings in Metchosin lately. A local farmer has lost a few sheep to a bear; apparently there’s one particular rogue bear that doesn’t even finish eating the sheep, so there’s some concern.
Nighttime is totally different here than my previous city life. Of course I don’t know anyone in the area. I don’t really feel like wandering around in the dark on the property and stumbling into blackberry bushes and rogue bears. The KECC has a ton of Krishnamurti and other videos but I don’t want to watch them every night. I do spend some time noodling on the computer, but I don’t feel like living at my desk all evening.
I felt a bit aimless at first at night, especially when Matthew went back to Vancouver for the middle of the month. But there’s a stillness and spaciousness here that seems to give room for things, and what I’ve found happening is that some of the things that I’ve been saying for a while “I should do this/that”… I’ve just DONE. I started this blog. I started updating an ancient side-project website that badly needed updating. I started practicing piano more. I’ve gotten a lot of reading done. I’ve done some yoga and somatic awareness work. There seems to be a little less internal pressure about things here, and more of a sense that I might actually have time to do things.
It’d be easy for me to idealize this sort of rural life because I don’t have to deal with that many of the realities. I don’t have to deal with maintaining buildings and fences and deterring rodents and protecting sheep and chickens from bears and checking tree health and a million other things – I’m just here on retreat. I have a pipe dream of a real house on a few acres with trees and peace and quiet, but of course that pipe dream doesn’t factor in the headaches and hassles of fixing things that break, and also the relative isolation that I’ve never lived with for any length of time. That said, I suspect I’m capable of learning things as needed, maybe even having a conversation with a neighbour occasionally. And with all this animal life around, you’re never really alone.