Thursday, December 13, 2001

Written on the morning of December 11...

The Island awakes with the dawn in the summer time. When there is light early in the morning, everything opens and rises long before the humans do. But in the winter, in the dark and rainy mornings like this, it is the arrival of the first ferry that awakens the island.

The first commuter ferry is at 5:40am, and in order to guarantee a spot on it, and enough time to get a coffee at The Snug, people start arriving in their cars by about 5. in the depths of late fall, this means that humans stir long before the owls have stopped hunting and the feral cats have retreated to the woods.

This morning, I am a foot passenger, walking in the pitch black and the pouring rain from our house down to the Cove. And I eschewed a flashlight this morning too, preferring to walk in the darkness and quietly falling rain simply to be present at the daily rebirth of the island. Many people who visit here and experience the night comment on how dark it gets on Bowen. The only streetlights are the three that line the last stretch of Government Road down to the ferry dock. Other than that, the only source of light is the light from houses, Christmas lights or the glow of the city reflecting off the low clouds. Walking in this half light can be hazardous if one is timid, but a confident footfall ensures steadiness.

There is something otherworldly about walking in the pre dawn darkness and falling rain. It is as if the world slips by me rather than me walking through it. Certainly until my eyes adjusted to the meagre light this morning it almost felt as if I was floating in space, the darkness enveloping me like a blanket. Strangely it is a feeling of at once claustrophobia and agoraphobia. Both fear of being smothered and fear of being in a wide open space. This anxiety can really eat away at one’s psyche. Overcoming this is a rite of passage for anyone moving from the constant brightness of the city to the real night of the island.

In this pre-dawn world, the 5:40 is almost entirely a world full of men. The tables in the lounge are full of men talking about taxes, work, their houses. It is conversation full of shrugs and started threads that fade away in half truths and speculation. This morning they are talking about why the ferry is 30 minutes late, what is taking so long to get us away from the dock. The perennial favourite topic of conversation is BC Ferries’ ongoing incompetence. It seems as if every mistake, unanticipated delay or mechanical failure somehow indicts the whole corporation. The good stuff gets lost, like the fact that they are going to call ahead and let the 6:30 Nanaimo ferry know that I am running late, so I don’t miss it. They even sold me a ticket at the snack bar. So now I can float a little more confidently over all the talk of the ongoing revamping of Horseshoe Bay, the delay in getting the Queen of Capilano back in service and this interminable delay this morning.

There is a little light creeping into the early morning darkness.

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