Devil’s Bath: A Great Place to Find an Old Flame (and Examine a Few Skeletons)

August 6, 2017

James and I joined his son, Dakota, and Dakota’s girlfriend, Cassandra, at Link River for a family get-together. It had been a really hot summer and Link River has lots of trees to keep us cool. I was also hoping to check out the driftwood graveyard that we saw on our very first official kayaking trip, so I could take pictures with a better camera than the flip phone I had at the time. It was also a good place to do some low-key family kayaking, because Dakota and Cassandra had a toddler, Gabby, and because my 26-year-old son and the computer brain behind this blog, Ramzi, was coming too.

Because James had just bought a new truck, a four-wheel drive Nissan Titan, we ended up with three vehicles. Rather than trade in my Tacoma, we decided to give it to Ramzi. We used the opportunity to bribe him to come kayaking with us. I also had in mind the possibility to check out the Eternal Fountain and Devil’s Bath. I have been a property taxpayer in Port Alice since 2010 and hadn’t yet seen Port Alice’s trademark tourist attractions. Devil’s Bath had a little surprise for me that would send me back 40 years in time, causing me to have some serious reflections about my life and veering it onto an unexpected course.

James joined Dakota, Cassandra and Gabby at Link River on Thursday. I stayed back so I could get some canning out of the way and then drive down to Nanaimo to meet Ramzi at the ferry on Saturday.

When I finally got to Nanaimo—two hours late which Ramzi noted with emphasis because he is all about doing things fast (he was even two weeks ahead of schedule when he was born)—I met him at the mall that is just up from the terminal. As he was coming to meet me, I tried to put a bow on the windshield. It refused to stick to the truck and stayed on my fingers instead. We hugged and proceeded to ICBC to change the ownership title.

We were acting like a couple of goof balls, forgetting things and almost losing important papers! The lady at the insurance office sent us to the bank to get a sheet for payments but halfway there we realized it was Saturday and that banks would be closed! On top of that, Ramzi wanted to pay cash anyway! It looks like our giddiness even affected the staff at the licensing office! When we came back, I saw that I left my ownership papers on one of the desks! The paperwork seemed to take all day and we had a heck of time getting the old plate off the truck. After raising Ramzi as a struggling single parent, it felt great to give him something expensive for once. Finally, all was done and just in the nick of time. If we hadn’t gotten it all done before closing, he wouldn’t have been able to take the truck home that weekend.

Since we were way behind schedule anyway, we decided to kill even more time and have a sit-down dinner in at Montanas. By the time we crept into Link River, it was around midnight. James was shocked to see us venture on wilderness roads so late. Travelling in the bush in the middle of the night is not something I would normally do, but the route to Link River is short and clearly marked.

August 6, 2017

James and I joined his son, Dakota, and Dakota’s girlfriend, Cassandra, at Link River for a family get-together. It had been a really hot summer and Link River has lots of trees to keep us cool. I was also hoping to check out the driftwood graveyard that we saw on our very first official kayaking trip, so I could take pictures with a better camera than the flip phone I had at the time. It was also a good place to do some low-key family kayaking, because Dakota and Cassandra had a toddler, Gabby, and because my 26-year-old son and the computer brain behind this blog, Ramzi, was coming too.

Because James had just bought a new truck, a four-wheel drive Nissan Titan, we ended up with three vehicles. Rather than trade in my Tacoma, we decided to give it to Ramzi. We used the opportunity to bribe him to come kayaking with us. I also had in mind the possibility to check out the Eternal Fountain and Devil’s Bath. I have been a property taxpayer in Port Alice since 2010 and hadn’t yet seen Port Alice’s trademark tourist attractions. Devil’s Bath had a little surprise for me that would send me back 40 years in time, causing me to have some serious reflections about my life and veering it onto an unexpected course.

James joined Dakota, Cassandra and Gabby at Link River on Thursday. I stayed back so I could get some canning out of the way and then drive down to Nanaimo to meet Ramzi at the ferry on Saturday.

When I finally got to Nanaimo—two hours late which Ramzi noted with emphasis because he is all about doing things fast (he was even two weeks ahead of schedule when he was born)—I met him at the mall that is just up from the terminal. As he was coming to meet me, I tried to put a bow on the windshield. It refused to stick to the truck and stayed on my fingers instead. We hugged and proceeded to ICBC to change the ownership title.

We were acting like a couple of goof balls, forgetting things and almost losing important papers! The lady at the insurance office sent us to the bank to get a sheet for payments but halfway there we realized it was Saturday and that banks would be closed! On top of that, Ramzi wanted to pay cash anyway! It looks like our giddiness even affected the staff at the licensing office! When we came back, I saw that I left my ownership papers on one of the desks! The paperwork seemed to take all day and we had a heck of time getting the old plate off the truck. After raising Ramzi as a struggling single parent, it felt great to give him something expensive for once. Finally, all was done and just in the nick of time. If we hadn’t gotten it all done before closing, he wouldn’t have been able to take the truck home that weekend.

Since we were way behind schedule anyway, we decided to kill even more time and have a sit-down dinner in at Montanas. By the time we crept into Link River, it was around midnight. James was shocked to see us venture on wilderness roads so late. Travelling in the bush in the middle of the night is not something I would normally do, but the route to Link River is short and clearly marked.

August 7, 2017

We had the typical type of family outing, with kayaking, swimming and sun-bathing. I got to be grandmother to little Gabby, just following her around and helping her to explore things. Ramzi and I paddled out to the driftwood graveyard that James and I had visited on our very first kayaking trip, but the driftwood somehow looked flattened and less interesting. I guess we’ve had a great many adventures since then! Ramzi had to do a few goofy things: shoot water all around with the bilge pump and sit at a submerged picnic table looking like he’s waiting for a server. He’s a comedian!

Devil's BathThe whole fam damily! Devil's BathGeeks can paddle Devil's BathRamzi up a stump Devil's BathWaiter! Over here please! Devil's BathA somewhat flattened driftwood graveyard Devil's BathA tangled root

August 8, 2017

The next day, after our offspring departed to their respective homes, James and I drove out to the Eternal Fountain. Surprisingly, there were quite a few people in this remote spot in the bush. It felt like a slightly busy street in the middle of nowhere!

The Eternal Fountain is essentially an underground stream in a karst formation that makes a brief appearance at the surface. A karst formation is a network of caves, underwater rivers and depressions created by gradual weather effects and erosion. The Huson Caves that we visited in 2016 (check out the post “Huson Caves and Little Huson Lake: Stuck in a Labyrinth with Shifting Walls”) was another manifestation of a karst formation.

Devil's BathThe Eternal Fountain

Later, we drove to Devil’s Bath. Devil’s Bath is a “cenote,” which is a flooded sinkhole. It is apparently the largest in Canada measuring 359 metres around and 44 metres deep caused by the collapse of an underground cavern. It was a little creepy because of the strait steep banks that seemed to be leading to the “underworld,” hence, probably why the name, “Devil’s Bath.”

Devil's BathDevil’s Bath Devil's BathNorthwest bank of Devil’s Bath * Devil's BathGuardians of the cenote Devil's BathJames and his new truck

The cenote is connected to the Benson River through cave passages that are 80 metres below the water table. The river itself is a like a canyon, with high eroded banks. The water at this time of year was a series of semi-still pools, but it probably really roars with spring runoff.

As we drove up to Devil’s Bath, shortly after another vehicle drove up and out stepped this older guy with white hair. He walked toward me and started talking to me like he knew me. We shared some work-related experiences and talked about the University of Alberta in the 1980s. Finally, as he got into his vehicle to leave, I asked him his name. I had recognized the name right away and I really knew only one person in my life who had that name. For some reason, I had not made the connection in my brain until he had driven off. We more than worked together! We were “a thing”! I think it was partly because he looked so different from the time that I knew him—which was nearly 40 years ago! I couldn’t quickly link up the images of his younger and present-day selves.

James and I headed through the bushes just northeast of the Devil’s Bath and down the bank full of trees, fallen logs and rocks to the Benson River. I certainly wouldn’t call it a “well hewn” trail. If anything, it requires a little imagination to discern. On the way down, James was playing “Twenty Questions.” I told him of a brief relationship I had with a guy with that name, but I couldn’t quite believe that it was him. James said I had to admit that there aren’t many guys around with a name like his. Then, the disparate parts of my brain fused together, and I finally realized who he was…even though I already knew who he was!

Devil's BathA “well-hewn” trail to Benson River Devil's BathDon’t forget to duck! Devil's BathGoin’ down! Devil's Bath…and down Devil's Bath…and down some more! Devil's BathYou coming?

James later said he thought I had made quite an impression on him. I answered that “Well, I was a pretty crazy in those days.” As James and I talked about the situation throughout the day, he would sarcastically refer to him as “your boyfriend.”

Devil's BathThe river is a little dry this time of year! Devil's BathStill pools Devil's BathInukshuk made by a previous visitor Devil's BathThe Benson River Devil's BathJames contemplating a swim Devil's BathJames taking a dip Devil's Bath“Where Daddy go?”

Before I realized the connection between us, the old flame had said something interesting. I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something like, “you forest fire lookout types are not much into relationships.” I thought it seemed like an odd thing to say with James right there beside me.

Although what he said was something I had always believed in my bones, hearing it come directly from someone else’s mouth gave me a bit of a shock. So many people in my life would shake their head at my choice of occupation and suggest, in various ways, that I find a job where I could have more of a social life and maybe meet a nice guy. I would usually rebuff the idea as so “plebian.” I tended to see myself as a woman who was tough, extremely independent and happily solitary. I didn’t consider myself a “relationship-type” of girl. I thought, for once, someone gets what I’m really about!

Then I wondered why I thought of myself that way! After ruminating on it for a good long while, I realized that there was a more insidious reason why.

My father had a serious anger management problem. He would get into these explosive rants where he would call me the most horribly insulting names he could think of, which included some very ugly gender-based slurs. He then would almost always top it off with the same dictum: “no decent guy will ever want you, and even if he does, sooner or later, he’ll smell you out!”

This was not a couple of isolated events, but a regular occurrence from my early elementary school years to my early twenties. When he was in a better mood, however, he didn’t become a “nice father” and say nice things and apologize for his vile behaviour. He just ignored me like I was a ghost.

Maybe my dad’s rants would not have had so much of an effect if not for the fact that no one else around me said anything different. Compliments, affirmations and endearments were not a thing in my family, to put it mildly. I was an only child for the first six years of my life, and we lived in somewhat isolated conditions—on a farm in northern Alberta. I didn’t have much contact with other kids, or people for that matter, until I went to school, and, even then, my social contacts remained quite limited. The only time I remember someone complimenting me on my looks (or anything) was when an unfamiliar woman came to our house for coffee and said I was pretty. Because that was the only time that I had heard anything of the sort, I assumed she was nuts.

I grew up thinking that I was not quite a “real girl,” technically female without the looks, charm, allure, “feminine wiles” or skills to attract a guy that other girls seemed to have. Because I had broad shoulders and muscular arms, I thought I virtually looked like a man. And, of course, I was “too fat,” though, when my son sees photos of me when I was young, he calls me “a stick.” I considered myself to be “androgynous” or “asexual” or “genderless” or “one of the boys.” I thought I could be a great friend to a guy, but nothing more than that. I considered myself more as an observer of human relationships, rather than a participant in them. If a guy seemed interested in me, instead of thinking of him as a potential prospect or even simply a boost to the ego, I saw the situation as a weird, convoluted and unsettling threat. Situations that would have made other girls feel “enthralled” or “alive,” tended to give me a feeling of overwhelming unease. I had no mental construct in my mind for being “the apple of someone’s eye” or an “object of desire.” Whatever men were looking for in a woman, I thought I didn’t have it; I believed I had a “neutral” effect on men. I was an artist and, as far as I was concerned, the only love of my life was art!

Because being female seemed like such a bad thing, I tried to act as much like a boy as possible. I had very tomboyish interests and shunned any activity that smacked of femininity, such as wearing dresses, doing my hair or wearing make-up. To get my father’s attention—which all children are compelled to do—I would show off to him how I could lift heavy things or effectively wield a hammer. I supposed it worked in a way, because he found it quite amusing….and he certainly enjoyed the extra help on the farm!

As a teen I was severely shy. I often walked around with my head bowed and trying to hide my face with my hair. Whenever I would hang out with my girl friends and we would meet a cute bunch of guys, I would retreat to the back of the group so the “real girls” could do their thing. When I was older, I would rebuff guys left, right and centre, then constantly bemoan that I didn’t have what it takes to get a boyfriend! If I met a guy that I found interesting, I simply assumed I didn’t have a chance with him. If a guy was really “gaga” over me, I thought there had to be something seriously wrong with him, or that he was just pulling my leg. It’s amazing what lengths we will go to prove our parents right!

Now I realize that I was probably just as attractive and feminine as any girl my age; plus, I could be very vivacious, bubbly and energetic…which might have even made me come across as “sexy” sometimes (probably made worse by the fact that I had no idea I was!). No-one who is young could be considered unattractive: youth is the very definition of beauty, and I may have even been more attractive than some! It explains why my interactions with men would always turn out so “weird,” even explosive sometimes. I was trapped in my own existential reality, and terribly out of touch with what was really going on around me. I was in a psychological prison created by my father’s venomous rants and it led to a lot of confusing situations and dangerous misunderstandings.

Back in 1978-79, when I was 19, I was in a long-distance love triangle with an American who I so badly wanted to be with. Although he said that he would have preferred to be with me than the other woman, I felt so unworthy next to her that I just quietly slipped out of his life without a fight. I really “knew my place.” I was effectively held back by the idea that I wasn’t “good enough”; I had a profound sense of “non-entitlement.” Not a day in my life has passed by since then that I haven’t thought of him!

A year later, when I was travelling near where he lived, I had another opportunity to try to win him over. My travel companions and I were having a party in our hotel room and, after I mentioned him, I had a major meltdown. They tried their hardest to console me and convinced me that I should try to contact him. They didn’t suggest any other action than that, perhaps believing I would “instinctively” know how to take it from there. I contacted him. We spent some time together, then I left again. I didn’t bother to mention to him that I was having a hard time living without him. I didn’t think I’d be taken seriously if I did.

I only went to see him as my friends ordered me to. They neglected to mention that I should try work things in my favour as well, which is what one might normally do in that situation. I now realize that he must have been totally confused by my sudden appearance and subsequent disappearance!

Talk about long lasting invisible bruises! He had even broken up with the other woman at that time and I still didn’t feel entitled to try to win him over…and all because I thought he was “too good”! I told this story to a friend of mine in the eighties, and she scolded me for not fighting for him. It was a strange concept to me at the time. Now, only after decades have passed, has the idea only started to make sense to me. It’s hard to sell yourself when you are taught by your father that you are fundamentally horrible, disgusting and despicable!

My dad’s rageful attacks was gaslighting of astronomical proportions, putting me totally out of synch with my own life. I was being made to feel unattractive because of my attractiveness! If I had been less so, I probably would have been able to circumvent his wrath and develop a more positive sexual identity.

I realize there were other situations that I gravely misinterpreted because of my low self worth that I remember, and there were probably plenty more that didn’t even register. I tended to have plenty of “guy friends,” not boyfriends, just guys who were friends (or so I thought). Now, I realize, some of them (except the gay ones) might have been contemplating becoming more than just friends.

When I was an undergraduate, a guy hung out with me for nearly a year. My friends and acquaintances would, rather sarcastically, bug me to take things to “the next level” with him (instead of all the derision, a long sincere heart-to-heart talk about the situation would have been more effective). I found the idea demeaning and thought that it would “ruin a good friendship.” My companion disappeared for a time and then turned up again married to his childhood sweetheart. Needless to say, he wasn’t interested in hanging out with me as a friend anymore (which actually surprised me at first!). If I had been told growing up that “any decent guy would be lucky to have you” that situation probably would have turned out very differently.

When I was working in the restaurant and hotel business not long after becoming a single parent, I was becoming acutely aware of how having a partner was almost necessary. There was a guy who I worked with who very enthusiastically asked me out. Shortly after, when I was having a coffee break with the rest of the staff, including one of my supervisors, we discussed my upcoming date with this guy (which I now realize, I should have kept a secret). My supervisor quickly proclaimed that he was “desperate,” and, not realizing that she might have been jealous, or spiteful, or simply a vehicle for evil in the world, I took her words for hard fact. I guess after hearing what I had always heard growing up, it was something I could not handle. I met him for coffee but ruled out any more dates in the future. Not long after, one of my co-workers informed me that he had quit his job (at a time when jobs were quite hard to come by). I was totally in shock, not because I realized that I had missed an opportunity to go out with someone who was quite enthralled with me and who probably would have treated me well, but because I couldn’t understand why he would have such a strong reaction over “someone like me.”

My father’s indoctrinations went deep, laid down early in my life as the foundation for my self-concept. I couldn’t see the flaws in my way of thinking because my reality was created out of those flaws.

The guy I met at Devil’s Bath and I were involved briefly, but I was more interested than he was at first (probably because he seemed unavailable and not a risk to my solitary status quo). After we were apart for a while, he suddenly showed an interest in me one day “out of the blue.” Strangely, I abruptly gave him the brush off as I have done with so many guys. Whenever a guy comes across as “too interested” I always make a run for it; then, once he’s well out of reach, I beat myself up for running! It would be nice if I could see these situations coming in advance and prepare myself, but they always seem to catch me unawares and I panic and run. I did panic with James, but I had the opportunity to back-track.

Although this pattern causes me much grief and guilt and I’d like nothing more than to be able to make it go away, I realize it is simply an extension of my hiding behind my girlfriends when we ran into a cute bunch of guys when I was a teenager. Also, because my dad was always such a menacing figure, I would always “make myself invisible” when the man of the house was around. I never had the chance to learn pro-social behaviours with my opposite-sex parent. You also tend to think there is something really fishy is going on if guys are acting like they are attracted to you when you’ve been repeatedly told that you shouldn’t be appealing to anyone worthwhile!

I did consider my “unattractiveness” a weird sort of freedom. It meant I didn’t have to get my heart broken like so many other people did and that I could “hang out” with guys and approach guys (like I was “one of them”), confidently assuming they would never get the wrong idea. Methinks I may have been erroneous about that assumption more times than I’d care to consider! I realize that I probably came across as confident because I had no real expectations, which lead to a lot of strange “unexpected entanglements.”

Later on, I had moments when I got half the inkling that I might have qualified for the “relationship game”—but without coming to the realization that I could have been considered attractive or desirable. When things wouldn’t work out, I wasn’t that disappointed because I didn’t expect much in the first place (which was probably a factor in why they didn’t). Whenever a guy broke up with me, I would just shrug my shoulders and say, “OK.” I would then erase my expectation as a rogue thought that didn’t really belong in my life. In fact, I was often relieved because I felt too much “out of my element.”

It rarely got to that point though because I would usually break up with him first—even before the relationship had a chance to get off the ground! Between my parents’ fighting and my dad’s dictums, I couldn’t envision that proverbial “happily ever after.”

Lately, I’ve been painfully coming to terms with the fact that, with a better attitude and a little conscious effort, I probably could have had practically any guy I wanted—which could have happened shortly after graduating from high school! I just needed to conceive of the idea as a genuine possibility. It would have happened “naturally” if I had had a father with a positive attitude toward me. Looking back, I am amazed to see how I had plenty of opportunities to have a partner! There was a weird algorithm in my brain that cancelled them all out! If not for my father’s indoctrination, instead of being the “lifelong bachelor” that I have been, I probably would have been one of the first girls to hop on the permanent relationship bandwagon!

Since this epiphany, I started trying to boost my self esteem by starting small. I started taking care of something innocuous and “non-threatening” like my elbows, which later led to using face cream, taking luxurious skin softening baths, giving myself facials and so on. I never used to spend that much time on my appearance before and I am finding that it’s quite fun! I used to balk at the idea of doing anything for “vanity” before. If I had engaged in such activities when I was young, my father’s attacks probably would have intensified. Maybe these little bits of self-care don’t make a big difference in themselves, but they seem to be giving me a bit of an overall glow just because I’m taking care of myself (I used to be a very much a “wash and wear” girl, or guy, or that something in between). This has led to a general overall improvement in my appearance and demeanor, probably because I developed a new perspective. I even lost some weight for some unknown reason! At nearly sixty years of age, I finally discovered I was a girl!

All my life I complained to my friends about my painful lack of “feminine wiles,” as if hoping that, somehow, they would teach me something. I now know that feminine wiles are not some long, complicated list of tactical manoeuvres, but rather, the simple notion that one could be attractive to someone. It’s not something you can easily learn if your father has been saying the most utterly horrible things possible about you all throughout your developmental years!

Over the course of my life, I sometimes had friends who tried to “straighten me out.” Some tried to give me make-overs to boost my self-esteem; others would out and out scold me like a schoolmarm for not being flirtatious or friendly with guys. What really needed fixing and that they could not see was my damaged internalized self-image, created by years and years of stomach-turning insults.

I was sent out into the world totally without a compass for navigating the often-treacherous complexities of human sexuality and, consequently, that which makes the world go round! I was deprived of knowing “the things all women know.” In this society where women are still so much at a disadvantage, I wasn’t even allowed to survive using “women’s oldest ways.” It’s amazing I survived at all! Because this aspect of life was in such a huge blind spot for me, it left me incorrigibly naïve about society in general! When I eventually tried to insert myself into dating life, I did so with a very over-simplified juvenile understanding. Things that some girls learn at age 6, I was struggling to make sense of in my 30s and 40s. A lifetime of social knowledge suddenly fell into my brain shortly after the meeting at Devil’s Bath.

Because of the lack of a critical piece of information, it feels like I’ve been an imposter in my own life! I feel I need to erase it like a whiteboard and start all over again! Lately, I have been looking at old photos of myself with this new perspective and I find I am constantly shaking my head. It’s amazing how my father has been “pulling the strings” in my life …even in death!

This delay in my awareness is probably due to the isolation of lookout work: it kept me in suspended animation as I contentedly fed my “solitude addiction” (solitude was relief from all the chaos) for a good portion of my life. Sometimes I’m torn up inside myself that I’m not a lookout anymore (I should have never quit to take over the management of my father’s estate that turned out disastrously anyway); however, I am strangely grateful that I finally reached this realization. I guess it helps to have a troubling mystery solved. Many strange encounters I have had with the opposite sex now suddenly make sense. I now know why all those crazy situations in my past were so crazy! I simply could not read or interpret “the signs.” Guys were probably seeing me as “all woman”—possibly attributing all kinds of (very confusing) clever motives and devices to my behaviour—and I saw myself as a female eunuch!

This is a fine example of how parents should be careful what they say to their kids. They may be listening better than they think! Kids are like clay. They can be moulded into anything, including perpetual victims or dangerous monsters! This is why I am a believer in mandatory parent training: anybody about to have a child should take a rudimentary course in child development and behavioral management (based on widely accepted research of the last approximately 100 years that teachers and child-care workers have to study) just like drivers have to study driving before being able to drive. Maybe my father would not have been influenced by a course he was obliged to take, but I have seen even well-educated and well-intentioned parents say and do very damaging things to their kids that could lead to a lifetime of low self-esteem and grief. Sometimes, in “traditional parenting,” a child’s low self-esteem can be viewed by a parent as a “tactical advantage,” which, I believe, creates more long-term disadvantages than they may realize. There are other parents, afraid of being “abusive,” who will resist setting boundaries and standing their ground with their child…which can be just about as bad! People should be provided some basic useful information before embarking on the very difficult and complicated job of being a parent!

Ironically, in his heart of hearts, my father wanted nothing more than for me to get married and have a family. I think, whenever I would return home from my adventures in the Alberta wilderness or around the world still very much unattached, it was a serious source of anxiety for him. It’s as if he thought I would greedily usurp that which he told me I could not have! Unfortunately, I was one of those kids who listened much too well.

I take delight in the fact, but for a brief catastrophic marriage in my early thirties that was one of those “unexpected entanglements” (on steroids), my father knew me as a single woman right up until the day he died. James has been the only “real” boyfriend I’ve had for any length of time, and he arrived seven years after my dad passed away.

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My ruminations after the Devil’s Bath encounter might have had an affect on my relationship with James, as I was back in Port Alice on my own three months later. Even though we had been together for three years, our relationship had always been tentative. I think we only lasted as long as we did because we both tended to be accommodating and good at avoiding conflict. We were “getting along,” even though there were some major unresolved issues hanging in the air that were not getting any closer to being resolved. After the Devil’s Bath encounter, what “little bit of glue” that held us together just totally disintegrated. After walking away from a guy I wanted so badly a long time ago and just now realizing that it didn’t necessarily have to turn out that way, it has turned my world view completely upside-down! I came to the realization that I need to start living my life on completely different terms…and what those terms are exactly I’m not quite sure yet!

My relationship with James was good for me in a way though. I had a boyfriend who was especially good at doing all those dutiful boyfriend things (dinners out, flowers on Valentine’s Day, not calling me horrible names, etc.) and it helped to contradict some of those gruesome lessons my father taught me. Things that I once would have considered “a miracle” I now have come to expect at a minimum. A “real relationship” can be a good learning experience; too bad it happened for me “the first time” (at least the first time with conscious intent) when I was in my fifties!

You can add to that that James and I had some terrific kayaking adventures together in some spectacular, largely undiscovered places! James was a great kayaking partner! His methodicalness in planning for our trips and timing the tides was critical in keeping us safe; yet, at the same time, he had just enough of a sense of adventure to make them interesting. He was also very fit, especially for a guy in his fifties, and he could handle those long marathon trips. The blog certainly won’t be the same without him.

I left Mackenzie to return to my house in Port Alice on December 4, 2017, when James was at work. I also “stole” Chloe, which was uncharacteristically brazen of me (a tendency that seems to have emerged lately). Because she has breathing problems and sometimes goes into convulsions, she needs regular exercise to keep her weight down and her air passages open. She wasn’t tolerating the cold and the snow in Mackenzie and was refusing to go for walks, while frequently using the carpet in the basement for a bathroom. I used to put booties on her and carry her to the end of her walk and then let her scramble home across the snow and ice. It was something, but hardly enough. Add to that the fact that James worked 10 hours a day or more and he would have had a hard time finding a dog sitter for an uncooperative sickly dog who hates snow. It also would have increased her chances of having a convulsion without anyone around to give her Benadryl to help her breathe. If I left her in Mackenzie, I worried she wouldn’t survive much longer. I figured her chances were much better on Vancouver Island.

In the end, James conceded it was for the best. In the spring, he came to Port Alice so we could exchange some of our belongings and he left me Chloe’s papers (by then he already had another girlfriend!). He even gave me the Manitou, which was greatly appreciated!

Interestingly, after I left James, Dakota and Cassandra also broke up and “the whole fam damily” was scattered like pinballs across the country. I haven’t seen Gabby since, but I do occasionally see her on my Facebook feed. She sure is growing into a lovely young girl! For sure, when she grows up, she is going to be a real bombshell! I hope she knows that!

It’s ironic that, because of this incredible realization that I wasn’t the ugly undesirable charmless ogre that my father always taught me that I was, that I have ended up a solitary woman again, and probably for the rest of my life! It would be just like me to figure something like this out in my twilight years! Although my perspective has dramatically changed, it’s hard to change a lifetime of behavioral patterns and attitudes at age 60….especially when I didn’t get to “practice” in those critical early years. At least now, after this epiphany, I am feeling very “settled” and comfortable in my skin. It is like someone has removed a “veil of ugliness” that I had been wearing all these years! Even so, I will undoubtably be spending a lot of time reviewing past events with new eyes and mourning the loss of what could have been.

It’s a good thing I can enjoy my own company, as 18 seasons of lookout work can attest to. I’ve got so many projects on the go that it makes my head spin! If I’m lonely, I don’t have time to think about it. If I turn out to be female in my next life, however, I will have to make sure that no one takes it away from me!

Devil's BathMe at age 16; Photo credit: Robert Tannas