Long Beach, Tofino. April 2019
I am leveled by the ocean’s grandeur.
When I leave and come back to town, it’s that first glimpse of Pacific blue that tells me I’m home. Whether it’s stormy or bright, the ocean is the first and last thing I see each day.
There is nothing so beautiful as the ocean at rest and nothing more magnificent than an ocean storm. I envy and admire the creatures that live in it, by it and around it. The ocean sustains an ecosystem that is both beautiful and fragile.
So you’ll understand my dismay when I see this on the beach. Little pieces of plastic washed up by the tides. Plastic broken down by the waves, on their way to become microplastics consumed and ingested by marine life.
There are many articles describing the impact of discarded plastics. When I’m in Toronto surrounded by glass and concrete conveniences, it’s easy to become inured to their message. Out here, it’s hard to ignore what lies in balance.
Ucluelet has a voluntary ban on single use plastics. Local businesses have complied and except for the liquor store, there are no plastic shopping bags available. Plastic straws? None. Not even in the liquor store.
In my home I avoid single use plastics and recycle or re-use it where I can. In Toronto I have a XL Blue bin for pickup and recycling. In Ucluelet I don’t have curbside pickup. I’ve become creative in reusing milk jugs and dairy containers.
Dairy containers, particularly the 1L size tubs are great for food prep. I’m a stickler for mise en place when cooking and lining up my tubs of diced onions, carrots and celery emote a satisfaction that die-hard cooks will understand. Yogurt containers are good, not great containers for storing left overs. Good because they fit neatly in my fridge. Not great because it’s hard to tell the left-overs from the real thing.
Milk jugs make useful pails and carry-alls. I have one in my kitchen to soak vegetables before chopping and another to hold peelings after chopping. When I’m in the mood, I use one as a carry-all for house-cleaning blitzes. Since I’m hardly in the mood, it’s a great store-all for my house-cleaning stuff.
I keep a milk jug pail in my car at all times. I use it for trips to the beach. It’s a holder for a shoe brush, essential for cleaning sand off of my shoes. It’s also a collection pail, essential for cleaning plastics off the the sand.
Ucluelet. April 2019
Three years ago I was homesick for a slice of Jamaican bun and cheese.
It was late March, a few weeks short of Good Friday. In previous years and for as long as I could remember, I’d have had at least one five-pound bun on my table. Traditionally gifted at Easter time, buns are a holiday treat in every Jamaican household.
At the time I was living in Singapore, an island half way around the world and an Easter bun-free zone. If I’d been living in Toronto I’d have had a choice of bakery and grocery stores to buy from. Local bakeries made their own and groceries flew them in from the homeland. But I was in Singapore and while there was no end of kueh, chang and puffs (all perfectly good in their own right) there was nothing like real Jamaican Easter bun.
So what is Easter bun?
It’s an improved, Jamaican version of hot cross buns. Improved because it is bigger, better and sweeter. Similar to hot cross buns, they are spicy yeast breads filled with candied citron and raisins. Different in that the spice is nutmeg, sweeter in that it’s molasses and brown sugar, bigger in that it’s a loaf not a bun. Even if it is called a bun, it’s a “bun”, not bread. Unlike hot cross buns, it is best eaten with cheese. Salty, orange Tastee cheese from a tin is traditional but any mellow semi-hard cheese will do.
So back to Singapore – I wanted bun & cheese but couldn’t buy it. The only way to get my fix was to make it myself. I wrote about it here. It took a couple tries but eventually there was success. I made bun and it was good.
Fast forward to present day. It’s Easter and once again, I’m on an island, in another Easter bun-free zone.
This time …. Nooo problem, ma’n.
Have a Happy Easter week-end!
Ucluelet, B.C. April 2019
Long Beach, Tofino. April 2019
Entering the trail to Combers Beach, the first thing to see are the warnings for “Wolf in Area.”
Five minutes later, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this.
It looked like a wolf.
But it was only a log in disguise.
Ucluelet. April 2019
I’m taking a break from the beach today.
Typical of the Pacific North West, it is bleak and rainy outside. It’d be cold and wet too, if I’d not chosen to stay inside. Being no fool, I chose instead to kick-off a new series of blog posts. It’s about living ‘Here vs There.’
I have the luxury of living in two places. One is in Toronto, the largest city in Canada, population: six million. The other is in Ucluelet, population: 1,717.
In Toronto I am never more than ten minutes from a super store; fine arts is a choice of museums away and dinner is easy with over sixteen thousand restaurants to choose from. In Ucluelet, the nearest Walmart is two hours away, art is the view from my living room and I can have any food I want, so long as I make it.
Transitioning from one place to the other takes planning. Whenever I come to Ucluelet, I have to adjust my clothing and gear.
The weather is always one of sunny, foggy, overcast or mild. Sometimes it’s all of that in one day. In any case, there’s always the chance of rain.
I wear layers under my waterproof jacket which has a hood and lots of zippered pockets. The pockets are necessary for storing my scarf, keys, sunglasses and bear spray. The zippers are necessary for when I catch a sun spot and have to de-layer to soak up some rays. If you’ve ever lost your keys on a trail, you’ll know why zippers are important.
Probably the most obvious change in gear is my hand bag.
In the city I carry a slouchy leather hand bag. It’s big enough to carry my wallet, phone, keys, hat, gloves, aspirin, notebook with a checklist of to-do items and a pen to check off old items and add new ones. In Ucluelet I carry a change purse with one bank card, a health card and Co-op membership. And enough cash to pay for serendipitous finds in the local thrift shop.
Ahh, the west coast thrift shop … now there’s another difference between living here vs there.
But that’s another blog post for another time. Stay tuned!
Ucluelet. April 2019
Environment Canada issued a severe wind warning for Vancouver Island yesterday. South West Vancouver Island (where we are) was hardest hit with 90 km winds and 100 km gusts. Although we were most exposed, our little town was unscathed. Elsewhere, BC hydro lines were knocked out and thousands were without power for hours.
Wind storms make for spectacular viewing. At its worse, we watched from the safety of our house. When it calmed down, we went to Amphitrite for a closer look. There were other tourists and storm watchers there. It was easy to identify first timers – they wore woefully inadequate rain ponchos which flapped in the wind as they hurried back to their cars. Geared up in proper rain jackets, hoods and waterproof boots, we still got chilled to the bone.
But it was awesome.
We wanted to see whales.
It was a foggy day in Ucluelet. At least it was on our side of the peninsula. On the harbor (a ten minute walk away) it was crystal clear. At Jamies’ Whaling Station, the group coming back from an earlier trip said they’d seen lots of whales. And so we went.
We saw lots of this.
But no whales. March is the beginning of the annual whale migration. During this time 20,000 Grey Whales move along the Pacific coast to their summer feeding ground in the Arctic. On the shore we can see evidence of whales by the flumes of water spouting in the distance. To truly see the whales, we have to get closer by boat. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. Despite being crystal clear in the harbour, we were socked in by fog in open water, where the whales were hiding.
We did see other wildlife. The Steller seal lions (shown here) are native to the North Pacific. They’re distinguished from the California seal lion by their look and sound. The Califorinians have a loud ‘ark, ark’ bark and the Stellers have a lower growl. Stellers have a lighter brown-blond colour and are much bigger, almost twice as big. The bulls grow up to 2200 lbs (~ 1,000 kg) and have a distinct ‘mane’ on their upper torso which the Californian do not have.
We saw both types of seal lions. The Steller colony was dominating a rocky island, sharing space with a large group of sea otters, while the Californians hung out in the harbour.
While we didn’t see the whales, we actually had an excellent day out. It was our first time on the water and it was wonderful to see the coast line and islands in Barclay Sound. Besides, since we hadn’t seen any whales Jamie said we could have another trip for free. We will be back!
Ucluelet. April 2019
The Nuu-chah-nulth (pronounced noo-cha-nolth) are First Nations people who’ve lived along the coast of Vancouver Island for ages. They have a story about the stones seen on Florencia beach.
Thunderbird and Skate were playing a game. With total disregard for safety, they took turns throwing spears at each other. Thunderbird had the first throw which Skate narrowly avoided by turning sideways at the last minute. Then it was Skate’s turn. Thunderbird in a fit of trickery and bad gamesmanship, called down lightening and hail called kaacumin (pronounced cots-oo-min) to obscure Skate’s sight. Un-remarkably, neither deity was hit but the hail turned into stones which remained in the bay.
The stones are reminders of the fickle nature of the coast. People are taught to never remove pebbles from the beach. Doing so might invite Thunderbird’s wrath and cause lightening and hail to fall.
Today was sunny and beautiful. Having no wish to change it, I looked but didn’t take anything but these pictures of the beach.
Florencia Bay, Ucluelet. March 2019