Quick—what image first comes to mind when you hear the word ‘island”?

For many people, myself included, the first visual is something tropical, with astonishing turquoise water, palm trees and white sand.  A week ago, as I made the sunset flight—so short we barely had time to climb—between Vancouver and Victoria, I stared out the window at an entirely different sort of island.  These were so densely forested to appear almost black, most without a single light to suggest human presence.  How radically different this was from the Caribbean I had just left—beautiful and fun, but so thoroughly humanized. This would take some getting used to. 

The first time i saw the Island View exit on the highway through the Saanich Peninsula, I thought it was just another example of naming something to sound more romantic and exotic than it really is, like calling tract homes villas or estates, or pretending there is a river or a bay where these only exist in some marketing firm’s imagination.  

Then I went there.  The Gulf Islands visible from shore are dark, hauntingly beautiful enigmas, most with names that signify nothing, because nature doesn’t need the labels we give it. i have been back many times since, and it has become one of my favorite places.

Today I made my first trip back to Island View Park (see photo above), and I was starkly aware of how much had changed in my head since I walked here last summer Today I struggled to be in synch with it because I am struggling to be in synch with everything.

It hasn’t been an easy transition back to Victoria. I was randomly selected for Covid follow up, which made me unable to call up friends and suggest an immediate get together. Oh well, as my friend Annie said, perhaps a soft, buffered landing is better anyway after such a huge and lengthy adventure. 

She was right, of course.  One thing I dread about a return from an adventure is the sense I must account for it somehow. I truly don’t know what to say about all the different environments I was in and the wide array of challenges i faced, and trying to think of how to hit the highlights is exhausting. And besides, I am really more interested in what I have missed by being absent from my friends’ lives for so long that I’d just prefer to pick up where we left off. 

But as I walked today along the pebbled beach at Island View, I thought there is something more going on. With the exception of a few cruise companions for short periods, since I said goodbye to my tour guide in  Montenegro in September, I have been alone. Yes, on the ships I did make a few friends I think are keepers, but the typical day found me off on my own from morning to night On the ships, I ate dinner alone most of the time (Covid rules, and my personal concerns influenced this), and when I didn’t have an escorting gig in port, I wondered around on my own. This made the months I spent in the Caribbean feel very different from any other cruise assignment I have had. 

As a result, my authentic life has been lived inside my head, and I am fine with that. One of my alter egos is a hermit. But the hermit life is not what being in Victoria is about. I really like a number of friends I have made, and my reluctance to break through my self-imposed exile for people who are important to me is surprising.  I guess there are a lot of different kinds of islands, and I have been on my own personal one for so long it  has become my sanctuary, and I feel protective of that. 

I thought that when I first came back to Vancouver Island I would feel a rush of affinity with it. Instead, I feel stuck on my own island, with unresolved business, personal worries, and an inability to just be in the moment, which has been so central to what has made me happy here. I guess that is the nature of any transitional period. I have “moved ” in a sense, and I should expect that to be mental, physical, and psychological  work both in relation to what I have left behind and what I have entered. But I wish I felt a little more of the magic….

I think stepping off my island is crucial now. Just a coffee, or a movie with a friend (hooray—theatres are open!) may crack something open and let the comfort of being here find its way in. All I know is that everything changes, and I will change too, and that has been the driving force in my life. Who knows what is next? I will have to come off my island to find out



When I was a teenager, “grounded” was the state I most dreaded being in. Today (a little more than half a century!) past my teens, and on my first day back in Victoria, the word takes on a beautiful glow.

I first came to Victoria in September 2020, and left for my five-plus months of travel almost exactly one year later, so I hardly had a chance to feel as if this were really my new home. But surprisingly it is. True, my associations with every square inch of it aren’t deep, as they are in San Diego, but every street I crossed, every building I remembered on the taxi ride from the airport into town, called to me, asking if I remembered them.  And I did. And I knew that I would be seeing them again and again, because this where I live.  

As I wrote those words, I realized that “this is where I live” is still not exactly the same as “this is home,” but in my head, it is still quite a step for me to have a place I really want to be. No, my wanderlust  is still—well, lusty—but I think I can be grounded here. I can see how I can be present here, how I can grow, how I can take on new challenges.  How I can not be bored, or stagnant, or feel as if I am wasting one minute of this precious life. 

This morning, my walk was a song about being here.  As I walked along the Inner Harbour (see photo above), I said hello to so many things.

Hello, morning sky.

Hello, steamy breath.

Hello, wool socks and boots.

Hello, Emily Carr sculpture.

Hello Empress Hotel.

Hello, Cafe Milano, with its awesome pumpkin scones year round.

Hello, squawking birds.

Hello, puffer vest.

Hello, hands in pockets

Hello nip on my cheeks

Hello totem poles.

Hello, hello, hello…..

I embrace this huge, wonderful hello, and ask “what’s next?” with the wonder of someone who has lived long enough to understand that “grounded” can be a blessing. 


Dear Feet, I Love You

Many years ago, I was in a shoe outlet with a friend. We were exclaiming about how cute a particular shoe was, when she added, “until you see it in our size.”  And it was true. We pulled out the size 9, and it was clunky and ridiculous. 

I’ve been told that the most popular size (meaning, I assume, the median size for women) was a 7 or 7 1/2 when my adolescent feet exploded into a 9, and I have spent the decades since thinking of my feet as big. I’ve also been told that 9 is now average, and I’d have to agree that the paucity of size 9 at shoe outlets suggests that that may be true. Still, my girlfriend is right, that so many shoes—and tennis shoes are the worst— just don’t cut it in that size.

Still, for many years, I have admired my feet. I look down at them and am amazed that something so small in proportion to the rest of me can do such a bang-up job of holding me up and moving me around. The strength of those bones, the power of those muscles and tendons is remarkable—a fact I sometimes have trouble appreciating when this awareness comes in the form of a briefly excruciating arch cramp. Maybe I should treat this as a plea for attention rather than a nuisance.  

I am writing about this because I have noticed recently a deluge of articles relating to Covid weight gain, Covid flab, and other developments that are causing great unhappiness as people struggle to get back in the clothes with which they once ventured out into the world. Most articles focus on how to lose weight, how to get back into an exercise routine, or other approaches where the insidious subtext is how we have let ourselves go.  The likelihood is that many of us were dissatisfied with the old normal as well.  We had fitness or weight goals in early 2020, that now may seem hopelessly out of reach. If we wanted to lose 10 pounds before Covid, or up our regular exercise,  now we may need to lose 20 or 30, or drop the weight on the resistance machines, just to start getting back to where we were. 

And then, I also see evidence of a pushback against this thinking.  I read articles that point out that self-love doesn’t have to mean getting back into one’s old clothes or old shape. Self love can mean noticing how well your body has served you, and thanking it by knocking off the criticism. Self-love can mean more targeted improvements, like greater flexibility or increasing stamina for activities you enjoy. Self love can mean wearing sleeveless shirts in hot weather even if your upper arms look flabby.  Self love can mean realizing you don’t owe it to the world to wear makeup, or a bra. Self love can mean throwing away the Spanx. Or it can mean doing none of the above. Self love must be authentic, and mine will be different from yours.

I will probably dislike a greater proportion of photos of myself as years pass, noticing how many are “spoiled” by making me look more wrinkled or fat than my self-image will tolerate. Here’s a baseline photo of me (including feet) still looking pretty good at 71, taken in Montenegro last fall.

Maybe I can learn to see as fabulous the older self i am becoming.  Who knows? But right now, as I move through the world, I can observe myself still moving, still smiling, still reveling in being alive.. I can look at myself after a shower and grimace at the sags and dimples, or I can say; “good job!” Thank you, from vital organs on out to the muscles and bones, to the skin which takes a beating to protect it all. Take care of it. That’s all my body asks of me. 

I can vow to take good care of the whole me I am now—body, mind, and spirit. That’s what self love is 


Taco Tuesday

For the last several months I have been in the eastern Caribbean, which is populated largely by the descendants of enslaved Africans. It was interesting, and heartening, to observe that from those awful beginnings, those descendants now own the culture. It was good to see how they now collect on this from people of the same color as those who enslaved them, who come to enjoy the lifestyle they have created. It is their music, their speech patterns, their way of doing things that rules.They reflect the beauty of Bob Marley’s line, “we forward in this generation, triumphantly.”  

It is indeed a story of victory over a brutal past, but the economic truth, of course, is far more complex. The story of wealth has not paralleled the story of freedom.  I asked a couple of the crew on snorkel expeditions who actually owned the boats, and it was not anyone with skin their color. I asked if it would be possible to reach a point where they owned a boat like the one we were on and could operate it independently, and they said it was not impossible but it was very hard to see the path to that. But still, there is something wonderful about the fact that they live in a world so unlike that of their enslaved ancestors, and that the end result of slavery was to deliver to Africans some pretty fantastic real estate in the New World, and a lifestyle that has far more joy. 

And now I am in the Mexican Yucatan, and the peoplescape has changed. Yesterday in Cozumel it was so wonderful to be surrounded by people speaking Spanish. I didn’t realize how much I had missed that. Mariachis, not steel drums, entertained people in the tourist shops near the pier, and the bars were serving tequila rather than rum. Of course, that is a far cry from authenticity, but it brought for me all the associations with Mexican culture I have from living for decades on the Mexican border, in San Diego.

My shore excursion was particularly fun, labeled as a day of taco appreciation. And indeed it was. We went to a place where we made tortillas by hand and on a press, prepared our own guacamole and a salsa with ground pumpkin seeds that was new to me, both in the traditional way with mortar and pestle. This was followed by  three kinds of tacos from various parts of Mexico, accompanied by however much tequila we wanted. Me, not much—I love the smell but am not crazy about the taste.

It’s good to roam the world, and it is good to stay put for a while in new places, but there is always going to be something utterly special about the familiar things one grew up with. My first soft, fresh, fragrant corn tortilla in who knows how long.  My first taste of salsa spiced with habanero chiles in months!  Welcome home.