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Leonard’s Escape: A Short Story by Shelley Robinson

7 Nov


Leonard:  The Journalist

Writing Prompt:  “Resurrection”:

I saw the body of a woman with her arms spread eagle, and her hair feathering out around her at the bottom of the pool.  How had I missed this? I jumped into action, blowing the whistle, and commanding everyone out of the pool.  My military officer’s voice of authority came back to me.  I dove into the calm underwater, reached her still body, and pulled her onto the deck. 

I had never rescued anyone.  I had been a father, and was not able to save my daughter, Vivienne, who had died when she was five.  I leaned over this woman, frightened for both of us as the crowd watched us battle for her life.  I breathed into her several times, and with relief, saw her chest rise and her eyes flutter.  I rolled her to her side so she could wretch out everything that had attempted to drown her.  Her daughter sat beside us, and I could hear her whimpering in alarm contemplating life without a mother.  The resurrection of this woman from one who could not breathe to one who could, was miraculous.  It was the one time in my life where I had been a hero, and I remember every second of it with crystal clarity.

Leonard was satisfied with his words after reading them over a couple of times like he had edited his thoughts when he was a journalist.  He waited for the others to finish their writing.  He always loved the sound of pens on paper in this little writing group.  For a few hours, once a week, he felt like he belonged somewhere important.  Interestingly, his son had taken to writing as well.  He was his only other child with a girlfriend from the States which was a lifetime ago.  Through Adam’s childhood, they visited once or twice a year, sometimes in Canada, and often in the States.  As a result, they had grown to appreciate each other through travelling in ways that normal father-son relationships did not allow.

Leonard looked over to see Sarah, another writing group member.  Her red hair and green eyes reminded him of what his ginger daughter might have looked like later in the life had she had the opportunity to live.  She had fallen overboard on one of his sailing trips with he and her mother.  Their marriage never survived the devastating loss of their only child together.

Sarah: The Teacher

Writing Prompt:  “Awe-Inspiring”:

…I remember the sunset on the Grand Canyon.  It brought to life the magnificence and the enormity of this wonder of the world.  It changed the hues of the rock as it descended into darkness transforming from atomic tangerine, to coral, to burnt sienna, and then in its final declaration of light, to glorious luminescent sinopia.  No painter would ever really be able to capture it.  I have tried.  It is impossible.  

Now, I sit on the little veranda in this little town and watch the clouds shape the colours in their rippled striation.  Every single awe-inspiring evening dazzles me with a different light show.  Then the curtain of light closes, and my heart applauds.

Sarah:  The Bank

She deposited her cheque, withdrew some cash from the bank machine, and then grabbed the receipt.  It was considerably more money than she could remember depositing.  Had she made a mistake?  She quickly reviewed her statement.  She put her card in again, and looked back through her banking history.  Fourteen thousand and forty-four dollars was deposited last Monday.  How could this be?  She walked into the bank to speak with a teller who reviewed the situation in detail.  Someone had deposited the money in cash.

“How did this person know my account information?” she asked, feeling exposed.

“They likely never knew your account number, but likely gave us your name and some details, and offered it as a gift to your account.  It is legal.  If it had been over fifty-thousand dollars, we would be obligated to notify you, but in this case, it was not necessary.”

“So, there is no way to track it?”


She gathered up all of the statements that they had printed out for her, and left the bank in a daze.  Who would give her such a substantial amount of money?  Would there be unknown strings attached to such an anonymous monetary gift?  Would someone show up on her doorstep and expect something in return?

Leonard:  The Boat

Every time it came time to finally launch his boat, some other matters came up.  His son would phone up and talk him out of it.  Adam was irritatingly sensible which was probably why, Leonard concluded, Adam was still not married.  Or, Leonard’s friend would fall ill and go into the hospital and need a visit.  Or, he had to collect clothes from the laundromat, or food from the grocery store.  Eventually, he would lose his nerve wondering if it was truly the right decision to simply sail away into the sunset.

He had an Island Packet Long Keel Cutter 35 and named her Gloria.  It was the Volvo of sailboats, boxy, not sexy, but very safe and comfortable.  It had been a lot of work restoring sections of it over the last few years, in an effort to finally get off the grid away from this little town.  Escaping had become his primary reason for living lately.  He wanted to feel alive again.  It was time to feel the pulse in his veins that had become shallow and unpredictable.  He wanted to explore some of the world that remained open to him like a gaping question mark.  Most importantly, he wanted to know himself again because he had become lost in this old body that housed a young man’s heart.

Sarah:  The Survivor

Every week she attended a writing group.  This eclectic group of creative writers met in a little community hall that was built when this little quintessential BC hippie town was first built by a paper mill company in the early 1900s.  The Douglas Fir floors creaked under the weight of her feet as she moved carefully through its hall carrying coffee and loaf cake to her seat.  Each week, she was ready to sit around the old wooden table with eight or so other members who came to free-write with their journals and pens in hand.  They were given a writing prompt by Fran who was the leader of the group who then carefully timed them for ten minutes to compose something out of thin air.  “Time” she would call out in her loud deep voice when it was time to stop writing.

It had been the one morning every week that Sarah would force herself out of bed.  She was always five minutes late no matter what her efforts to be punctual had been.  It was a struggle to get moving in a life where she no longer had any real time commitments.  She chose to move to this small town to be near the ocean, and the woods where she could breathe better, rest and rediscover herself.  Recently, every time she looked into the mirror, she stared deeply into the tired eyes of a societal burn out.  She now had time that had never really been afforded to her in her previous educator’s life composed of bottom lines, deadlines and front lines.  She now sat dormant on the sidelines in the grey weather of the Canadian West Coast where she came face to face with herself.

She wrote in order to preserve her sanity and to ward off a sense of purposelessness, isolation and depression that threatened to devour her each and every day.  She was not the only person healing in this eclectic group.  Leonard was the oldest member.  He was in his eighties, and had been first an officer in the military; then a journalist; next a commercial diver; and finally, a recluse on one of the Gulf Islands where he jokingly described his profession as selling pot out of the back of his motorcycle.

Leonard was an articulate writer who spoke softly of his plans to escape this town.  Sometimes he wrote about sailing away on a boat he had been building and harbouring nearby for over a decade—Gloria.  At other times, he told them about his motor cycle and his plans to drive down into the States to visit his family, and then camp along the beaches of the Oregon Coast.  The group quickly learned that there was always some sad delay with his boat, or his bike, that prevented him from launching his dreams.

What Sarah learned was that no one in the group really aspired to publish, and as a result, there was no real expectation to critique each other.  Instead, these people let down their masques and disclosed intimate details of their lives in this profoundly free writing.   It was here where she started to heal.  She did not disclose much about herself because she felt like an imposter in her own life.  These people made space at the table; welcomed her warmly when she arrived; and listened to her intently when she read aloud.

Leonard:  The Motorbike

Writing Prompt:  “Roadways”:

I had found the perfect two-man tent that would fit nicely into the saddle of the motor bike.  I have done a ton of upgrades to my Road King.  It is more than just a lot of chrome.  Last week, I put on a new rear tire with lots of tread.  It has seen miles of highway, this motor bike.  I think that it is ready to hit the road again, and I phoned my son to let him know that I am coming down.  He talked about us getting over to the Grand Canyon which has always been my favourite place to go. 

The roadways always feel good to me under a motorbike with a good engine.  When I am heading somewhere with my helmet on, and my gear stowed behind me, I know that my life has purpose and adventure.  I like not knowing what will happen next.  

The thing about travelling is that when I travel, I miss home.  This is the harsh reality of the traveller.  There is the tugging of the heart to leave and the pulling of the mind to return to its comfort zones, just like canaries that fly back into their cages when they are released…

After the writing group, Leonard walked downtown.  Without really remembering how, he found himself on the town ferry without much money and no real destination.  He just sat comfortably in a seat looking out over the water.  The captain announced a sighting of a pod of Orca on the starboard side.  They breached for quite a few minutes right in front of him.  They were marvellous in their enormity.

Sarah:  The Departure

“Where is Leonard?” she asked.

“He was put into the hospital because he was caught wandering.  He has been struggling with the onset of dementia for quite awhile and his behaviour has become unpredictable,” one of the members who knew him well, explained.

They talked quietly, contemplating the writing group without Leonard.  “Will he need anything?  Should we be visiting him or sending him anything?”  Silently they contemplated their own cognitive mortality.

“I think he is being assessed, and will be medicated.  The hospital is likely the best place for him to be right now,” Anna reassured us.  “There aren’t many places for someone like Leonard here in town.”

Sarah sat listening to the gentle rhythm of people reading their weekly devotions.  This little community hall had become her church, and this group, its spiritual congregation.  Their religion was the written word.  They wrote to prove their existence.  Leonard shone here.

Adam:  The Visitor

He came up the steps and found her sitting, enjoying some morning coffee and sunshine on her veranda overlooking the water.  Her hair was wild with curls, and she was wearing her favourite flannel pyjamas.  She did a double-take when he showed up.  He looked familiar.

“I’m Leonard’s son, Adam,” he announced awkwardly.  He set down a parcel by the door and came over.  He looked around at the view of the ocean in front of them.  He was the spitting younger image of Leonard with dark red hair, blue eyes, and fewer wrinkles.

He sat next to her and got straight to the point, “Leonard passed away.”

“I’m so sorry,” she gasped, taken back, pausing to find the right words to continue.

“He wanted me to give this to you.  He said that you would appreciate this painting.”   The artwork leapt out at her with vibrant intensity.  She could visualize the exact spot from which this artist had rendered this perfect twilight moment on the rocky ledge above the canyon.  Someone had actually been able to capture the colours and light of this beautiful place on canvass.

“Did your father leave me some money in my account?”

“Probably.  Money was always showing up in my account too.  It is his MO.  He explained that you would sometimes drive him home from writing class.  To be honest, I think he loved how you wrote about travelling. Now that I see you, I think you remind him of Vivienne.”

“Yes, he told me.”  They sat transfixed with the masterpiece in front of them.  “Thank you for bringing it over.”

He struggled with his story. “I got my love of motor bikes from Dad.  Anyway, I thought I would come and pick him up and we would just hit the road.  When I showed up, he barely recognized who I was.  I said, ‘Pops, let’s do that road trip’.  I remember looking over at him sitting beside me with his helmet and a big grin on his face like a small child.  He didn’t care that it had come down to me driving and him sitting in a side car.  He was just so happy to finally be on the highway.

“It sounds so good,” she squeezed his hand.

“But, he didn’t wake up at the US border.”  Adam wiped his face with his hand.  “We rushed him to the hospital, but he had passed away somewhere on the last part of our trip.  He left me everything—what is left of it anyway, and his treasures.”

“And Gloria?”

He nodded.  “…and he mentioned that you loved the Grand Canyon and should have the painting.  I asked around to find out where you lived.”

He stood up to leave.  She was as startled to see him go as she was to have him arrive, and felt disappointed.   They both hesitated about how to end their brief encounter.  “Thank you for bringing it by.”

He walked down the steps, and turned around.  “What do think about going for a sail?”

via Leonard’s Escape: A Short Story by Shelley Robinson


Pressed:  A Love Letter to My Husband by Shelley Robinson

28 Feb



I write this love letter to you, my new husband of one year, to remind you of our age (50 something), and as a result, our collective wisdom (over a hundred years together).  Yes, we still have lot…

Source: A Love Letter to My Husband by Shelley Robinson

Pressed:  The Forest Chapel: A Short Story

3 Aug

Source: The Forest Chapel: A Short Story

The Forest Chapel


Shelley Robinson

The massive front door made of Douglas fir planks blocked me from entering.  The little sign hanging from a single nail, said, “Closed Today”.  I was disappointed because I had made it my habit of coming to this heritage lodge.  It had become my rustic forest chapel surrounded by enormous legacy trees that guarded over it like faithful soldiers.  Over one hundred species of tree seeds brought back by the owners from countries around the world, had been planted here. Logging had been what helped them build their empire and beautiful home.  As a result, cedar and Douglas Fir were used to build and decorate the interior.

Today, the quiet visit that I had anticipated here was put to an unfortunate halt.  I peeked through the mottled hand-blown window glass, wondering if maybe there was a mistake.  ‘Surely there were some people inside’, I hoped.  I strained to see the grand yew staircase, with its one large bannister limb reaching down to the newel post at the bottom.  Everything about this lodge was about trees.  Trees fortified it with its posts and beams, and fuelled it in the large stone fireplace.  The energy that it imbued provided respite from a stressful life.

Because the house was closed, I was relegated to the front covered veranda.  Two drift wood lounge chairs welcomed me to sit.  I had an eery fixation with this place. Sometimes, I would come here and listen.  My adult son had commented when he had visited here, “I can feel the ghosts in this house, Mom.”   He was a big believer in the paranormal; whereas, I was a skeptical believer.  If there had been ghosts, I would have seen some by now in my five-plus decades on earth.  No angels, ghosts or demons had ever come to say hello and actually pay me a visit.  However, I had always felt some strange connections to buildings in the past.  I sometimes heard, smelled, and witnessed things that were a bit unusual.

“Is it open?”  I turned to see a tall backpacker approach.  He sported a paisley bandana and sunglasses, and carried a large overnight backpack.  He clunked up the stairs with large shoe-laceless hiking boots.

“No,” I answered disappointedly.  “It usually is, but I’m not sure what is happening today.”

He smiled slowly revealing a large toothy grin.  “That’s too bad.”  He looked to be nearly half my age and a well-seasoned traveller with all of his weathered gear.  He seemed to be relaxed in his Bohemian lifestyle that I might have embraced if I had had another lifetime to trek around the world.

I nodded, unwilling to share with him my irrational preoccupation with the estate.   He took off his pack and sat down in the other chair.  He pulled out his water bottle, and drank most of it.  He explained, “I am related to the owners.  That’s why I came.”

“Are you the long lost grandchild due to inherit all of it?”  I joked.

“Wouldn’t that be interesting if I was,” he laughed, appreciating the possibility as he looked up at the building.  “No, I am related to the cousin of the owner’s daughter somehow.  My mother used to talk about this family like they were the royal family.”

“They had a strange history.” I explained my limited knowledge of it.  “He inherited the money by marrying his wife and working his way into the family logging empire.  In the end, he was the last surviving of his two children, who died fairly young, shortly after their mother.  It was all very sad.”   I was momentarily distracted by the pretty pink hollyhocks knocking up against the porch front.

“You know quite a bit about the owners,” he mused looking around at the acres of manicured gardens leading away from the forest and down to the Comox Bay.  In the distance, the Beaufort Mountain Range and its white glacier framed this pretty ocean paradise set in the Valley of the Whale.

“Not really.  I did a bit of reading, but there’s not much to learn about it aside from what the tour guides tell us.  I just like sitting in the quiet of it when no one is around.  I suppose I come here expecting answers. I listen for some kind of advice from the walls,”  I admitted to myself and to him.

“The walls…” I could feel him summing me up as a bit odd, and he was likely correct.  He contemplated my strange disclosure for a while, and then said, “I do that too.  I look for answers in odd places, especially in nature.  What are you hoping to learn?”

“I want to learn why I keep coming back here.  Every time I do, I see things changing inside of the house.  I feel a conversation stirring inside of me as if there is something on the tip of my tongue that needs to be spoken.  There are also smells…”

“What kind of smells?”  he pondered.

“Apple pie; a man’s cologne; and roses…lots of roses…oh…and strong cigars.  I can almost see the smoke.  It all happens when no one is around, nor when anyone nearby would be making these smells,”  I tried to change the topic.  “But no matter, I just enjoy the place.”

He sat back in the chair, and folded his arms.  “I am a little bit psychic sometimes,” he spoke tentatively.  It was my turn to wonder if he was a bit daft and disoriented, or in these parts, maybe a bit under the “influence”.  “I have spoken to ghosts,” he said convincingly in a whisper as he leaned in to me to explain further.

The elderly lodge caretake interrupted coming up the steps.  “Can I help you?” the portly older man with an uncomfortable looking limp, stopped to inquire of our loitering.

“We were wondering why the house is closed,”  I prompted him to explain why to my myself and the backpacker friend who had introduced himself to me as James after complimenting on my long hair.  “This fellow here came to see the house because he is related to the owners.”


“You may kiss the bride,” the minister announced.  We leaned in to kiss each other very passionately, and then turned, almost surprised to see to the house full of guests.  They clapped in celebration, recognizing the joy we were experiencing together.  We had finally found each other, and we were thoroughly caught up in this special moment.  “We’d like to invite everyone into the dining room to enjoy some wine and toasts,” my new husband, Chris, cleared his voice and announced.  He was very handsome in his dark pin-stripe suit.  His red rose boutonniere complimented the white and red rose flower arrangements that had been brought in by my family.  It was Christmas time, and we stood in front of the Christmas tree, humouring my father for a couple of pictures before heading to the other room.  

“You have finally found each other…” my best friend began her toast, while my other friends filled up their glasses with champagne in preparation to raise them in good cheer.  The rest of her toast was a bit of a blur to me as she reminisced about my childhood, and some of my accomplishments.  I was also distracted by my husband who leaned in to kiss me on the head during it.  I could smell his sweet cologne, and could sense his excitement and fatigue from the many days of preparation that had led up to this special day.  It was both a triumph and a relief to have it all come together in such a beautiful venue.  I had always liked this house. I had doubted that I would ever marry at all, let alone in such a special place which sometimes felt to be more a church than a heritage home. 

We could smell my sister’s apple pies cooking in the kitchen.  It had been decided that it would be an old-fashioned wedding and what better way with which to bring in a new life together than with the taste of her nutmeg and cinnamon seasoned dessert.  However, there were more toasts, first by my husband’s brother, and then by my other friend, who broke into tears before getting very far in her speech.  It was all a bit of a dream for me, as I had wondered how it all happened so quickly.  

We met each other over coffee, and we spent our first date exploring the park around this very house.  Then, on our second date, we walked further over to the spit, and enjoyed a beach fire by the ocean.   From there, our lives together unfolded naturally, as we shared a mutual love of hiking in the trees.  He would laugh when I would go up to an old-growth Douglas Firs and sacredly hold my hands on their trunks.  I had been told that these parent trees nurtured the smaller ones in the forest.  I believed that they gave me energy too.  We were tree huggers, and for us, there was no finer place in which to share our vows than in a home and park dedicated to appreciating them right along the harbour front. 

It was raining and we wrapped our arms around each other.  The damp pungent smells of the cedar shingles, and the fragrant foliage that stayed green here even into the middle of winter, sharpened our senses to this magical evening.  We sat under the tin roof of the veranda, and Chris pulled me in to him, savouring this quiet moment together before we headed back into the lively celebration. “I love you beyond belief,” he whispered. 


“Just come on in,” the lodge caretaker laughed, amused by our interest in the house.  “I have dishes to clean up from the wedding this afternoon.  You can poke around.  I’ll be here an hour or so.”  He pulled out a key chain with dozens of keys on it, and opened the front door.  We were welcomed into the woody living room with hand-woven Persian rugs.  This cozy sanctuary was filled with antique, hand-made mahogany and oak furniture surrounding a large stone fire place that still burned wood on special occasions. “Please take off your shoes,” he looked at James dirty boots and backpack.

“Amazing,” James exclaimed.  We wandered into the dining room with rough cut Douglas fir planks across the ceiling.  A used silver tea service was spread out over the dining room table.  We stepped down into the little breakfast nook and admired the mosaic floor with its inlaid multi-coloured tiles.  They had been brought over in the ballast of ships from the Far East for lumber.  “There is such a powerful energy here.”  He looked carefully at the family pictures on the wall, reading about the family history.  There was one of the owner’s daughter and the owner on the front steps of the lodge where we had been sitting earlier.  She was joyful in her wedding dress, holding wild flowers.  The owner looked on at her with pride.  The photo captured this family in its golden years, and it was with sadness that I thought of everyone who had lived here, and were now gone.

He came over to me and spoke quietly so that only I could hear him.  “I think that this house holds memories of the past and the future in it.”  He reminded me of his son in his youthful belief of mysterious and unexplainable things.

“How can you have a memory of the future?”

“This house seems to have something prophetic about it.  I don’t know if I would call it a memory.  It just gives me some feelings of things to come.”  He touched the heavy wooden mantlepiece above the fireplace.

“What kinds of messages?”  I had been alone for along time.  I always liked to speculate what lay ahead me.  I had many tarot card readings foretelling pretty average events.  Most were vague and inarticulate at best.  I wished that somehow I could know what lay ahead for me.  Would I grow into my older years alone?

“I feel something about you.  You are attached to this home in the past and in the future.  Have you ever been here before?”

“I don’t think so,” but I tried to think about where I might have somehow come across this lovely place in my history.  My family had come over to the island when I was a child, but I had no real recollection of it.


The men’s laughter rang through the night louder than the rain that pelted overhead onto the tin roof of the veranda.  They spoke heartily about the deal of the day.  “…and I told him to bugger off if he didn’t have the cash for the lumber.”  All five older gentleman dressed in distinguished evening attire laughed in unison enjoying their whisky and lox.  He pulled out a cigar and clipped the end of it in a definitive stroke, and then handed the cigar clipper over to his friend who did the same.  They savoured the slow catching of the flames before inhaling them.  “Dad,” a woman poked her head out of the front door.  “Can I talk to you?”  

“Sure,” he responded, handing his cigar to a friend with a pat on the back, excusing himself.  He followed her into the lodge, past guests in the living room, with whom he shook hands.  They ended up in the sitting room of the master bedroom, where she sat with him on one of the sofas.  

“I am not sure that I can keep doing it,” she confided to him.  “He has been moody and unpredictable.  I am exhausted with all of the money he has been spending lately.”  She looked over as a little girl peeked around the corner, looking up at them shyly as she made her way from the bathroom back towards the living room to find her parents again.  Mary smiled and beckoned the girl over to her, and had her sit between them, playing with her long red curls as the girl looked up at them through sleepy eyes.  

“I don’t know what to tell you.  Marriage isn’t easy, Dear. It seems like yesterday when you were the bride here in this house.  I think you have to talk to him and make it work,” he looked into her sad eyes, and offered, “Would you like me to talk to him?”

“No,” she was quick to reply.  “He would be furious.”  She started to cough. “We have to get back in and pay our respects to the beautiful bride.  She is such a lovely New Year’s bride, isn’t she, Dad?  She has so much hope for the future, doesn’t she?…”  She sighed.

“Yes, she does,” he held her hand.  “1967 is going to be a good year for all of us. You lie down,” he pulled her in for a hug and then encouraged her to rest.  “You don’t look well.  I’ll pass on your best wishes to the new couple.”  

“Okay,” she agreed.  She never left a social occasion early. He held out his hand to the small girl who looked up at them with wide green eyes.  “And we need to find your parents, Missee,” he smiled down at her, and then led her out to the living room.


“It’s a beautiful place,” James looked around and then down at his phone where he typed a message.  He looked up at me and then spoke a bit distractedly.  “I do feel the energy that you are talking about.”  We had wandered around the upstairs and we ended up in the owner’s daughter’s bedroom.

“Apparently this room has been reported to have ‘an unexplained chilly draft in one part of this room’”, I read the description of the room posted on the wall.  “‘Over the years, various lodge caretakers and workers have reported sensing a ghostly, yet benevolent, presence about the property, particularly in the owner’s former bedroom’.  Spooky!”  I turned to James and we both looked out of the room with a stunning view of harbour.  “This is the room where I smell a lot of lavender.  I asked the lodge caretaker before if they used lavender oils or perfume in the room, and he said that they do not.  He also confirmed that there was no longer lavender on the grounds because it was sometimes invasive to other flowers.”

James turned to with a strange look in his eyes.  “I think you will have a significant moment in this room.”

“Really?  Unless I break in here at night, I don’t think anything really interesting can really happen to me here with all of the tourist traffic,”  I teased.

His phone chirped again, and he made apologies.  “My girlfriend is texting me, and I’m going to have to go.”  I was taken aback by the abrupt ending to our brief encounter.  He continued, “It was nice meeting you.  Remember, good things are going to happen to you in this house.”  He said a quick good-bye, leaving me to wonder about where he would end up.  I was left alone in the quiet of the house.  I explored the adjoining dressing room with its built-in cupboards, and coal fireplace.  I felt a presence, and heard a hint of laughter, but I wasn’t sure if it was my over-active imagination.  I stayed still, listening.


“She is so perfect,” I held my sleeping grand-daughter, Jane, breathing in her lavender talcum powder while her mother, Andrea, explored the room. Jane’s little eye lashes fluttered and her tiny fingers twitched while she slept in my arms.  I was in love with this little biological heirloom that my son and his wife had given our family

“This is an amazing house,” Andrea exclaimed as she wandered around the room, appreciating all of the antiques.  “Do you think this room is really haunted?” 

“I don’t know.  I’ve always felt like it had something magical about it.  Now you are here to share it with me,” I revelled in the intimacy of this moment together, just the three of us.  

“It looks like they are setting up for a wedding on the front lawn?” she pointed down to a man who was setting up a table next to a full garden of pink hollyhocks.  I leaned out of the open window, and recognized him. I couldn’t quite place where I had met him.  He looked up to the window that we were leaning from, and squinted up at us.  

“Hey, Christine,” he seemed excited to see me.  “Remember me?”  

“No,” I yelled back, smiling.  My daughter-in-law’s awkward laughter suggested that this might have been a forgotten lover from days gone by.  

“I’m James…”

Like a slow processing computer, my mind finally crunched out a memory of my very brief encounter with this man.  “James!  The backpacker.  I remember you.  God, it has been almost ten years.  Do you work here now?”

“I took over that old caretaker’s job.  It helped to be a long lost relative.  I love the trees, and hell, the pay was pretty good.   I got married too.  We live in the little cottage behind the house in the forest,” and as an after thought he blurted, “…and you still have that pretty long red hair.”

I smiled a bit awkwardly.  The dots in my head were starting to re-connect the many pieces of the puzzle of this house that we had spoken briefly about a decade ago.  “I got married too, and we got married here in this house. This is my daughter-in-law, and their baby!”  We both waved a bit awkwardly to him, holding up the sleeping baby who was oblivious to our hollering back and forth.

He gave us a thumbs up and flashed us those big white teeth.  He still wore a flannel shirt, and I wondered if he had finally gotten shoe laces for his big boots.  “You see,” he yelled up happily to remind her knowingly, “Good things did happen here, didn’t they?”  Our conversation years ago had been a foretelling of things to come for me, and stirred a memory from my childhood that I had long forgotten.

“Yes, they did!”  I gave him a thumbs up, and held my other hand to my heart at the immense realization of it all. 

Pressed:  EMPTY BEACHES by Chris Crawford

23 May

Source: EMPTY BEACHES by Chris Crawford


Many things can be discovered by spending time on a beach in any country. Some of the things that come to mind for me are; level of happiness of the local people, family values and local social habits.

Shelley and I had a chance to experience this on our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. We spent two weeks there over Christmas and New Years 2016.  It was a welcome break in our crazy lives of planning and then having a wedding. During this time away we made a conscious effort to learn basic Spanish so that we could converse with the locals and experience the real Dominican Republic.

About an hour before we landed, I heard an excited voice say “pull out the travel book.  We need to learn Spanish if we plan on making it to the resort. ”  For the next hour, we went through the drills of learning a few basic phrases. Even in the customs line-up we befriended a  weary  traveller who spoke Spanish to help us learn how to catch a bus to Jaun Dolio beach.  I could not absorb as much as Shelley because I did not sleep on the plane.  She has the gift of being able to sleep the moment that she sits down. I should say lies down all oer me as I was the pillow for the five hour flight. Needless to say she was much fresher than I was when we arrived.

We made it through the Airport and picked up our luggage.  As we exited the airport, we were met with a barrage of taxi drivers and such.  All were eager to try and help us use their cab. Shelley Tip # 1, don’t let anyone grab your luggage. As it turns out, the friendly help would cost us a $270 USD ride to the resort. Shelley tip #2 they will haggle.  A simple Spanish of saying that is was “way to much”, dropped the price to $150 USD.  It was still to much for our liking, so plan B was executed — Public Transit.

We had the entire afternoon to make it to the resort and we used it to travel with the locals and see some of the country that the average tourist would never see. Three buses later, thanks to Shelley’s Spanish lessons on the air plane, we were dropped of in front of our resort. The total was thirty Canadian dollars for the both of us.  After the journey, a check in and good sleep was in order.

In the morning, we had a light breakfast and were eager to hit the beach and take a swim in the azure Caribbean sea. As we walked IMG_1541onto the beach, we noticed that hardly anyone was on the beach beyond the strip in front of the resort.  Three hundred feet around the corner and we had about a mile of tropical beach to our selves –Heaven.  It is very easy to lose track of time when all you see is the hypnotising surf of the Caribbean and the tropical winds moving through the palm trees.

Our second adventure was a self-guided trip into the old colonial zone in Santa Domingo.  More public transportation. Santo Domingo is the oldest colonial city in the Americas. Founded by Bartholomew Columbus in 1496.  He was the son of Christopher Columbus. We had an incredible day exploring all the old buildings.

After the day of exploring the old colonial zone had concluded, it was time to make it back to the Hotel.  Three busses and a slow trip through the heart of Santo Damigo during rush hour was all that it took to get back to the hotel. It was  a look into the real world of the Dominican Republic.  If anyone really wants to experiance any country and  know how the locals live, public transit will show you it in about one hour stuck in rush hour traffic. What a ride it was with people  hanging out the door of the bus and people stepping on at every stop to sell food to the the hungry passengers.

The real contrast for me on this trip has been the different people managing the crazy pace of the city to the construction worker napping in the shade.  Everyone knew how to move quickly, but all seemed to also know how to slow down.  For me, the time spent on the beaches was the real Dominican spirit. Locals spending time with their families on a Sunday with a picnic seemed to be their favourite pastime. Their only concerns seemed to be where to find a palm tree for shade.  We should all spend a bit more time looking for shade under a palm tree.

Pressed: And They Lived Happily Ever After

8 Aug

And They Lived Happily Ever After.


And They Lived Happily Ever After: July, 2015

Shelley Robinson

Warranty Runs Out at 50: Sometimes it takes travelling away to see a new relationship for what it really means to me. Being on a trip to Hungary, Slavakia, Austria, Germany and Holland on a river boat cruise given to my sister and I by my parents to share with them, forced me to really take stock of who I am having just turned 50, and my new relationship with Chris. First of all, I had not counted on the first five months of our relationship to be when my body warranty decided to come up for renewal. Medical issues crept up on me from my bladder to shoulder to incredible work fatigue and now to a matter with my eyes. Chris had not counted on losing a position that he had quit a position for in Alberta in order to move back to the Comox Valley so that we could leap into this relationship with both feet; and, as well, so that he could become better connected with his family on the island.

However, I still see our new romance like a fairy tale. Like all fairy tales promise ” and they all lived happily ever after”, actually seemed possible for me in this new situation. I am interested in knowing what that actually means. I hope to explore that more with Chris who has agreed to document some of our journey together in order for us to make sense of it, and as well, to share our ideas with others who are learning about relationships.

Jumping Right In: Regardless of our life obstacles that seemed to jump out in front of us at every turn, Chris and I embraced our new dating relationship with a bit of wild abandon. We started with a romantic trip to Tofino. Here we explored the rain forests of the west side of Vancouver Island. Soon after, I took him to my little cottage on Pender Island where he helped me to set it up for the season. I was so pleased to share this little hideaway that I had been keeping to myself most of the time. Then we backpacked into the Elk River Valley, and experimented with our new hiking equipment. We planned how we would approach our next treks together, and more importantly, how we would lighten our pack loads. Trips to Victoria, Calgary and then again to Pender Island helped us to solidify our relationship by meeting friends and family. Words of love and forever were shared, and we started to believe in each other as a strong partnership that might enable us to approach our life dreams in new and dynamic ways.

The Peanut Gallery: Like all new relationships, there is always commentary from the gallery (family, friends, colleagues and other). Everyone has advice for the new couple, but more importantly, they want to make sure that Chris and I are incredibly happy. “Happy”, by the conservative definition, means being very very careful. “Are you sure?” “How do you know?” “This seems very fast.” These kinds of comments were anticipated, and surprisingly, despite a few cautionary tales, we were well-supported by most of the people that we cared about, despite a couple of disappointments. It seemed to be a consensus that at 49 and 50 we really had more to lose by not trying out something that we could see to be so very special, than by being laden with fear and speculation. Everyone seemed to say how lucky we were to believe that we had found our soul mates. “Taking on a new relationship would take hard work”, was the general theme of most conversations, and I was prepared to learn what I could from some of my married friends and family. It continued to surprise me that after so much time as a dedicated single person, that I had finally let down my guard to become a couple.

A Second Look: What I am finding as I look at our relationship from a distance, is that I am learning more about relationships by jumping into one than by standing precariously on the edge wondering what it might be like. It has not been our first time apart given that he was in Fort MacMurray for work, and then I was in Austin Texas on holidays for some of our time together. However, being away from Chris until the end of the month, has forced me to really evaluate where I am standing in my head and heart in our new connection together. What is abundantly clear, is that I miss him very much. What I have learned through our exciting romantic encounters, and through some real life challenges are the following three things that perhaps I am only seeing now for the first time as an older person in a new relationship:

Sex is Important: At this age, if the sex isn’t good, it is telling of the relationship. Sex is the relationship thermometer of so many things. It is good to be with someone who has a similar intensity about the physical side of a relationship as I do. This means learning to be as creative as possible while understanding what makes the other tick in so many vital ways in and out of the bedroom. Sharing a strong sexual energy with each other is a spiritual connection for us, and it helps us stay very close in ways that words and actions are not always capable of doing otherwise.

Intention, Words and Actions: Follow-through is the foundation of trust. What has meant more to me than anything about my relationship with Chris is his commitment to do what he says that he will do. We have agreed to “say what we mean and then do what we say”. I cannot believe how this is playing out so well in terms of us trusting each other. When he says that he is going to do something, despite a few normal circumstances, he always gets things done. Perhaps this type of behaviour is a sign of maturity, but it was seriously lacking for me in previous relationships. When his words turn into actions, it feels like respect to me, and I believe that it encourages me to do the same for him in return.

Mind the Gap: One thing that we have agreed to do regularly is to “check in” with each other. When we speak about checking in, it is about connecting with each other in really deep and intentional ways. We ask each other questions, usually at the end of our day, to insure that we are close and connected. Sometimes these conversations have led us into some really interesting directions because we are forced to disclose how we are truly feeling with each other where we might normally have skirted over topics in favour of a good night’s sleep. We have also agreed to talk about things when issues arise and to anticipate and respond to matters where we feel that there might be a gap developing with each other. This has been our biggest joy and challenge together to learn how to do this together.

Reflections: In a nutshell, anyone can be in love, but not everyone can stay in love. Both Chris and I have experienced the devastation of failed relationships. It can be a humiliating thing to lose people that we believed we would stay with us in long term relationships. However, we both believe that we had the good fortune to learn from our previous experiences so that at this time in our lives, we can be sure to give each other our best. Chris is always telling me that he wants our relationship “to be extraordinary”. He also says quite regularly that he wants to learn to be the best boyfriend that I have ever had. What a wonderful thing to say to someone that you love.

I have much to learn to be the best girlfriend in return. I stumble over my humanness on a daily basis. I learn more about myself and Chris everyday, and I hope to continue to feed this relationship with grace and kindness wherever possible. We both believe that we have been given a special gift, and now we have the choice to decide what we do with this chance afforded to us by the universe.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Albert Schweitzer

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 52: How 52 Weeks Became 156 Weeks

22 Jun


Looking Back to July 2012:  Three years ago, I made a journey from Calgary to Comox.  It was a leap of faith and one where I had very little idea about what lay ahead.  I decided to write about my journey and experiences and began with this one 156 weeks ago:  I was both excited and scared to make my way out West to live out a dream of being by the ocean and in amidst the rain forests on Vancouver Island.  Despite some nerves in doing so, I felt oddly sure of myself moving ahead.  I knew deep inside of me that there was a reason for going.  I felt a readiness to leave Calgary, and an even greater belief that where I was going was where I needed to be.  I was confident that I would meet new people, and explore new opportunities in my career.  Most importantly, I felt that I would meet someone who would be like-minded in his passion for the outdoors.  I hoped that together we would find ourselves together in the woods.

In many ways, as I review my blog entries over the last three years that were intended to be written over the course of one year, I realize that I have filled a lifetime into three years.  There really was very little time to sit down and write about it.  At one point, I began writing a novel entitled Coast to Coast Calling. My experiences were stranger than fiction, but fiction-worthy, never-the-less.  My blog entries have helped to inspire some of that writing, and it has been a helpful process as I attempted to make sense of my experiences in my new homes on both Pender Island and the Comox Valley.

Dreams Do Come True:  Perhaps I moved to the Comox Valley with such conviction (and naivete) because I was intended to meet my partner Chris.  He has been both an inspiration to me and someone who challenges me to be my best.  He has afforded me the belief that there is a purpose in the life experiences that we have had to date.  All of my life seems to have led me to this place where my vantage from Pender looked out onto the Crawford homestead on Saltspring Island (without knowing it), and from where he looked many times onto Pender Island to see my neck of the woods (again without knowing it).  And from there, our tales collide.  We have learned that our ancestors come from the County of Tyrone, and that we have many similarities that have afforded us to land in the same spot in exactly the same time based on our families journeys to Canada, and then our respective journeys to the islands.

We both express daily how fortunate we are to have found each other.  I feel very fortunate to know that someone who is so expressive, and responsive to me as a person, can actually exist.  Every day is a new adventure now that we are learning to live together in the same home.  We have big plans ahead of us.  We have stories that we want to share with each other and our grandchildren to come.  However, before those grandchildren come (from my son, or his three sons), we have some things we want to do, accomplish and experience around the world.

New Blog Site:  As a result, we hope to share some of these adventures (and misadventures) with our friends and potential blog followers on the following site that is still in its infancy:

We hope to see you on our new blog post.  I will continue to write, and Chris is hoping to share some of our pictures from our experiences together.  We both feel that it is important to map out our journey in advance, during and after our experiences so that we can also savor every aspect of each new trail we encounter, and each trip we have the good fortune to share together in Canada and abroad.

Thank you for reading my blog entries so far, and I hope that you will feel inspired to share your feedback, input and ideas with us as we move ahead together.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Eight: What Happens When God Answers?

17 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Eight: What Happens When God Answers?.


Getting Bossy with God:  Elizabeth Gilbert references in her book entitled Eat, Pray, Love this idea of petitioning God for what we want. Earlier this year, I made a very deliberate request to have certain things happen to me in order for me to be the best that I could be for myself and everyone around me.  It felt a bit like bargaining with God and saying, “Look God, I have been waiting for a long time to find, accomplish or experience certain things in my life, and I am determined to make this happen.  Your help is required, and I hope that you will ‘step up’ and help make it happen.  If you do, I can fulfill my dreams and be in a place of greater abundance to help others as well”.  It was not a typical experience to negotiate with God as a conservative Protestant who was always a little bit shy to ask the universe for anything knowing that I am better off than most people around the world.

However, I had been waiting 49 years for one very important thing in my life–a relationship with someone special–a champion.  I wanted a relationship in this new and wonderful place where I had dared to start a new life on Vancouver Island.  People were starting to worry about me being alone, saying things like, “There is no perfect person out there, and you might have to lower your standards.”  I always shook my head and responded quite confidently, and convincingly (even to myself) that I knew what I was looking for.  I would find it, and when I met him, I would know it.

One of my friends asked me, “What if you had to wait until your next life time to meet someone?  What if you are not intended to meet this person now or any time soon?”  I replied pretty definitively, “No, I am not prepared to wait on this one, nor die in order to experience another lifetime to do so.  I am going to get bossy with God and say exactly what I want, and when I want it.”  The deal that I had made explicitly with God was this:  Meeting someone special to share a life with would need to happen before I turned 50 years old.  This relationship would need to be a good fit, and so much so that I would feel very “wowwed” by this person.  The “wow” factor was something very important to me.

She continued to debate the matter, “You don’t need to have someone in your life.  When you are ready to really love yourself, you will not need anyone else, or you will attract someone to you who loves you just for you.”   Of course she is correct.  This is absolutely the case.  I have spent many years learning how to love and respect myself on many levels and for many personal and professional outcomes, not just finding a partner.  However, I felt ready.  In fact, I was liking myself so much that I was starting to choose my own company instead of going out with people on dates on the off-chance that they didn’t have crazy deal-breaking habits that I could not overlook (smoking dope, lying, being married, being a workaholic, posting naked pictures online, cheating, anger management issues, addictions, etc.)

And then one day…just when I was pretty close to closing down my online dating site (as it always seemed a bit more like viewing America-Canada’s Most Wanted than a perfect life mate), I got a message.  He commented on my profile picture that happened to be a picture of me in the exact same setting as his profile picture on the top of Mt. Maxwell on Saltspring Island.  We were posed similarly, and had the same gorgeous Gulf Island view behind us.  I was in a practical mode of thinking at that point, to meet over coffee.  My observation in the cyber dating world was that there is a serious “failure to launch in the real world” phenomenon of emailing and texting, and I was not interested in this type of protracted dating process with little outcome.  Given some recent dating encounters that I had experienced since I had moved here, a couple of which had gotten my hopes up about, I did not want to invest too much energy and hope into something until I investigated the situation first hand.

We efficiently negotiated our early morning meeting time and place like a business deal in a quick phone call.  It felt like a business transaction.  You can tell a lot about someone by their ability to engage in a phone call.  He was polite, responded to my questions, and asked me a bit about myself.  I had been used to phone conversations where I either had to carry the entire interaction, or had to sit listening in a zoned out state of utter disengagement.  Instead, this gentleman had phone call etiquette figured out, and I liked him immediately.  I reminded him that I would prefer to meet him in person instead of walking in the woods alone with a stranger, which was his original suggestion.  I joked that I might be an axe murderer, and it might be in his best interests to meet me in a public place.  He agreed.  We met for breakfast in downtown Courtenay.

At First Glance:  It did not take long for me to know that I would love this man.  Not only did we like the same food, but we loved to hike.  We quickly decided to go on a walk by the ocean, and I noticed that we were literally tripping over ourselves to talk about what we liked to do; and the types of experiences we hoped to have in our lives.  We did not talk about our personal lives (families, ex’s or anything really intimate).   It was an immense relief not to be interrogated by someone about personal matters that I preferred left to a later time.

The topic of travelling quickly identified itself as a priority to us.  I had done more than him, but he was keen about it.  He had lived a few places around the world because his father had been in the military, and liked being centered in a home base on the island.  I had lived in one solitary city all of my life, and had travelled to escape the monotony of living in one city for my whole life.  However, we both agreed that as we approached turning 50 (although he was quick to remind me that he was 10 months behind me from doing so) that we had to start putting some other priorities ahead of work and family.  It was quickly apparent that we were the responsible types, used to taking care of other people–the stable, yet predictable backbone of society that had the potential of propping up others instead of ourselves.

At one point on my dating site, I had simply asked, “Who is interested in travelling the world?”  I had a couple of responses, but none that were very serious about the idea.  Most men wanted to travel the world (and never had), and those who had travelled the world were somewhere else in the world at this time living a nomadic experience far beyond my reach.  This fellow seemed tenuous about life changes, but keen to reconsider a life plan where he was presently working in Fort McMurray to frugally save and help support his family.  I presented to him early on in our walk, the fact that at some point soon, I intended to quit work and travel the world.  He did not baulk at my candid admission which I usually used to scare men who lacked any sense of wonder and adventure, away.  However, in his own even-tempered way, he considered my question, and he seemed interested.

See You Around Sometime:  However, just when I though the date had gone well, he dropped me off at the car, and left me with the words, “I had a great time.  Give me a call if you would like to do something outdoors.  I hope to see you around sometime.”  I smiled, and thought to myself, “Like hell…”  I have never been interested in passive men lacking initiative, and especially a man who would choose to leave me to ask him out on a second date after one that I felt had gone very well.  I smiled and said, “See you around sometime,” and walked away.  As I drove home, I thought to myself glibly, “Well, you win some and you lose some.”

The next day I got a text.  He invited me out for a date for dinner.  A text, I pondered, was not the best way to be asked anyone out, especially me, but it was a start.  I contemplated the demise of our social norms as texting in sound-bytes in incomplete sentences and poor spelling or grammar was quickly becoming the new social reality.  I had grown up in a face-to-face age.  However, I decided that I would meet him again because I had enjoyed our first date.

Oh, by the way…:  Somewhere between a walk on Goose Spit in the Comox Harbour and our date for dinner at the Atlas Cafe, I knew that something magical was happening to us.  We talked about very innocuous things–in fact, we talked a lot about nothing at all.  We spent most of our evening talking about places we had been and food that we liked to cook.  I liked the simplicity of the encounter, and his good humor in response to most topics.  He was witty, and made me feel interesting.  The conversation was easy, and it was pretty apparent that we shared some similarities that we marveled at each time something came up that we had in common exclaiming, “Me too!” numerous times throughout the evening.  It was obvious that we had good connection.

He drove me home, and kept his hands nervously on the steering wheel as we said our good nights.  I asked for a hug, and we awkwardly exchanged ones in the confines of his sports car.  He mentioned just as I was leaving, “Oh, by the way, I will be away for three weeks with work.”  Long distance was not something that I had met with success in my life.  In fact, no one I knew had ever found it very easy.  I was alarmed that I had the good fortune of meeting someone so special, but would be yanked away from building this connection any further for almost a month.

I smiled.  I said good-bye, and made a decision to answer God.