Return To Canada Part Two

Posted: September 7, 2010 in Best of file 23, The Roper Files
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August 19th …9:30am…

 Feel thrust back into the seat as the jet lurches forward on the runway; the scenery outside the window turns into a blur. The airport and its acres of parking grow smaller and smaller beneath me. Then I can see the homes with the airport, each with a swimming pool in the backyard. Oh now there’s a selling point for the realtors: “Hey you listen to jets taking off and landing 24/7 but you got a pool!”

The hot humid Texas air and bright sunlight gives way to distant foggy cotton-candy fluffs of clouds as my ears begin to pop. The engines roar as we rise upwards and the jet shakes.

 An hour or so later I look out of the window to see clouds between the sun and their shadows down below on what looked like really rough mountainsides un-marked by any apparent roads or highways on them. Colorado maybe? This is a four and a half hour flight too; good thing I brought a lot of books with me. Reach into my back pack for a my newly acquired copy of…

And THIS is about as far as I can get when most Everyone Back Home interrupts me and asks:

 “So what did you DO in Canada, anyhow…?”

 That’s the question my friends, family and co-workers all ask the most. My favorite way of giving them a direct answer is to whip out my photos and SHOW them.

It’s hard to explain to them that sometimes DOING something isn’t always DOING something. Sometimes just experiencing a different state of being in a different place is Doing Something for some of us.


(click photos to enlarge)

For a lifelong city boy like myself, just standing in a rain forest oozing with greenery dripping over trees thousands of years old growing entangled with trees older than them is as surreal as any mescal-tinged “other-world, separate-reality experience” that Carlos Castaneda ever wrote of. Walking through lush rain forests that look like some strange collaboration of Roger Dean and HG Giger where tree roots drip like candle wax over fallen dead trees and mid-morning sunlight struggled to peer through to the narrow path I was hiking on. My eyes focusing on a pool of water under a cliff; why I could see every rock, stone and pebble on the bottom through the clear green water. Also that trio of some kind of bones…what the hell?


Climbing over spotted, striped multi-colored rocks in a red-tinged pre-dawn light to reach a beach where rabbits, deer, crabs, and seagulls,ravens herons, ducks, geese, hawks and eagles pay you no heed as they scavenge the beach is as unreal and dream-like to this city slicker as any of Hunter Thompson’ s drug-induced Las Vegas misadventures. An early morning hike almost anywhere on this island could make you feel like Dr.Doolittle.


Finding a beached purple jellyfish the size of a basketball on the beach ranks right up there with any monster or creature on either TWILIGHT ZONE or THE OUTER LIMITS two shows that both fascinated and terrified me as a child.


When people flip through my photos one question they ask a lot is “Why So Many Sunrise/Sunset photos?” And to borrow the punchline to the joke about the dog licking himself: because I could. Taking beautiful photos there was easy. Point the camera almost anywhere and shoot. Heylook…breath-taking photo! Sunrises and sunsets up there are lush, gorgeous colorful and daily affairs.


No one sees me ignoring barriers and hanging over cliffs to get that shot of that lighthouse. They don’t see (or feel) the rocking boat I was on when I shot those pics of that deer on that cliff, that eagle in its nest or that submerging whale. People aren’t throwing up around them while they look at my whale-watching photos too I might add the way my fellow passengers were while I was taking photos. They didn’t have to climb down a twenty-foot-tall rock wall off a highway to get that stunning shot of that waterfall and then have to figure how to get back up to where I was parked again…


Standing on a beach and watching the sun rise on the eastern horizon on the other side of an ocean inlet over mountains and through clouds. Watching as the beach and everything on it changes colors bathed in red, orange, yellow, purple hues of sunlight.

On more than one morning there I felt as if I had stepped into that psychedelic cover photo of that Pink Floyd “More” soundtrack. The entire particular island I was on had a otherworldly OZ-like quality to it that my best photos fail to do justice.


Yeah but what did you do?”

Now as far as answering THAT question goes:

They seem to understand whale- watching especially if I can squeeze off just one or two good photos.


When I show them photos of the sweet little“suite” at the bed and breakfast with the spectacular view of the Pacific I got for the “room” price ( about a $180 difference) due to a reservation mix-up I get approving nods and comments like: “Nice…”


But when I try telling them I spent entire afternoons hiking on nature trails that led to cliffs overlooking the Pacific or walked up on trios of horned buck deer just walking to Tim Hortons for breakfast or past eagles nesting in nearby trees they look at me almost painfully as if they are waiting for me to get to some distant punchline.

Yeah but what did you DO?” they keep asking.

Sometimes I think they expect to see photos of me whipping a team of dogs on a sled through a blizzard over the frozen tundra. Maybe they expect to see pictures of me in a snow-suit in front of an igloo. Fishing through a hole cut in a frozen lake wearing those hip-high rubber boots. Walking past windmills wearing wooden shoes I think they would even buy. Seriously.

 Maybe I should have taken photos of the Dairy Queen, the A&W, the McDonald’s, the Subway or the Quiznos. You know; just to show them it’s not all that strange, different or alien than America. Handed the Kodak to some stranger and had them snap me in front of the Starbucks holding up one of their terribly overpriced iced drinks while grinning and waving to the camera with my free hand. (“Hi!”) Posed in my black shorts and sleeveless camouflage “wife-beater” t-shirt in front of their Staples Office Supply. Or maybe not…

 Don’t think they really want to hear that Canada isn’t really that different from here; not sure if there’s any point in trying to explain it to them anymore even if it is true. Just like us, the Canucks are big on ice cream; every place I saw that had “ice cream” on their sign seemed to have a line in front of it. The burgers at the fast food places look pretty much like ours. They dip their grilled cheese sandwiches in ketchup and put beef gravy and cheese on their French Fries and call them “poutines” but besides learning the correct lingo to ordering at Tim Horton’s

(“ sugar, one creamer…, two BLT combos…plain bagels.”) eating at their restaurants and fast-food places wasn’t that different.

Just like us in America they enjoy movies, surfing, skateboarding, muscle cars, rock and roll, watching the sun go down and a good old fashioned fireworks show on the beach…


Yeah man but what did you DO?”

Damn it that the ONLY question those knuckleheads can ask?

 No one wants to hear about the train ride to or from the bus stop. No variation of how I explain their one and two-dollar coins (“Loonies and Two-nies”) confused me into paying too much fare more than once is as funny or amusing to anyone else as it is to myself and “K”.


No one wants to hear about the bus ride to or from the ferry, which I’ll admit was pretty uneventful but I was nose-to-the-window both ways taking in the scenery nonetheless.


No one even wants to hear about the two hour ferry ride to or from the island even though the ferry is a magnificent ship with almost every accommodation you could possibly want: a restaurant, washrooms, wi-fi, comfortable seats, a coffee shop, a gift shop etc. When the weather permits they have an outdoor “sun deck” that gives you a “captains-eye” view of the horizon and if you love being on a boat as much as I do…I mean weather permitting this is where I spend most of the trip. Leaning on the rail and taking in the scenery. Past little islands with lighthouses. Past large bunches of logs lashed together with cables.

So what if I saw pods of black-and-white orcas swimming alongside of the ferry coming back last year? Like you see those every day back home. That’s just not exciting enough for some people I suppose. They act like I’m holding out on them somehow when I tell them about these things.

 The only question they seem to know how to ask is:(yeah you guessed it)“Yeah but what did you DO?


I did so much more than just DO things ( as if taking pictures of skittish horned deer at personal risk wasn’t doing anything) I saw things I couldn’t see back home. For two weeks I breathed air free of toxins and carcinogens. I tasted farm-fresh vegetables free of chemicals. Heard ferries and and a freighter blowing their horns loudly as we sailed head-on into six-foot white-cap waves on Pacific inlets. Felt the loving touch of a woman’s hands as I got a foot massage (sorry you perverts; but that’s all I’m giving you on my Manson family-friendly site)

 Besides doing MOST things costs money so I was forced to re-define “doing things.”

Back to people asking: “Why so many sunrise/ sunset photos?”

I can’t even take a decent sunrise photo HERE not that we don’t have nice ones but I’ve got to drive for miles to get away from the trees and development that blocks the view. On The Island it was point and shoot to take nice postcard-quality pics of the sunrises and sunsets.


Despite their extensive mining and logging industries we drove past mountainsides covered with pine and cedar trees as far as the eye could see.

After leaving somewhere with 100+ degree temperatures it was strange to see snow-capped mountain peaks in the middle of August. One particular long winding, twisting and unlit two-lane mountain-pass road made me flash on two recently purchased DVDs: the LONG LONG TRAILER ( the scene towards the end when the trailer is over-loaded) and PEE WEES BIG ADVENTURE when he drives by those Tex Avery-ish road signs warning of curves ahead (when Pee Wee is driving Mickey’s car at night) because some of the road signs we drove past weren’t that far removed from those. Just getting to certain destinations was half the adventure. 

Yeah man but what did you do for two weeks?” 

Think this is about where I tell them they just had to have been there….


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