Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island

A treasured friend


In 2011, E and I drove across Canada. Drove, being the operative word. E loves to drive and it seemed to be a point of pride to proclaim a new mileage achievement each night when we arrived in our motel at dusk. I remember driving through the Dryden area. “Look” I said ” a lake”. Zoooom… “Was that a deer?”  Zoom… “I think there is a waterfall down that…..” Zoooom….. I saw most of Canada in kind of a Coles notes, readers digest kind of version.. But I was happy to sit in the passenger seat with no responsibilities. Since the installation of a Garmin navigator  to our Fords dashboard my map reading skills been made redundant. E, was happy…he loves to drive and technically, I did see Canada.

In 1998 my friend, let’s call her Hilary was invited to present to a Nursing conference in Ottawa. I offered to be her plus one, if we could include a road trip around cottage country at the end of her conference. So we rented a car and headed out with no particular plan. Again, my road trip partner loved to drive and without the invention of an automated voice telling us when to turn left, I sat with my map on my lap performing a valuable service. Because we didn’t really care where we ended up, my services carried no stress. With Hilary I would say, look there is a really cool old graveyard and she would pull the car over. We would jump out and stroll through the gravestones covered in wild roses. We would read the stones for their bits of history and imagine the lives of our hosts.

I admit to a certain fondness for daytime wandering  in graveyards. Back in the day of these graveyards the stories of their residents were written on their grave markers. 

Here lies Betty, loving wife of Edgar  and mother of twelve. Shot three Cougars in 73.. 

I have several books on the topic. The evolution of grave markers from a life’s highlights to just the start and end date of the life. Betty 1834 – 1873.. To a point where now many of our departed family’s remains are tossed off cliffs with no marker at all. I find the whole concept of using the older grave markers as a source for history fascinating.

We drove aimlessly on a sunny June day enjoying each other’s company, singing show tunes down the back roads of Ontario. We saw a small cardboard sign nailed to telephone pole.  Crafts for sale>>>>>>>.      We didn’t hesitate. We turned right. Driving a long way down the country road we found another sign leading us up to a quiet farmhouse and down to the rear basement door. Now at this point we could have very well disappeared off the earth. Serial killers could well use this method to capture middle aged quilters for their ne’er do well purposes. But instead we found, when we opened the door, a lovely older woman surrounded by yards of beautiful material, furs and costume jewellry. A sewing machine sat amid ribbons and bows on the table in the middle of the room.

On the shelves covering all four walls were gorgeous hand made Father Christmas’s. Most of them, 16 inches high draped in rich silks and shiny jewelry in their Santa sacs. Some had strips of fur lining the hoods draping Santa’s furrowed brow. The lady explained she travels thrift stores and estate  sales year round to gather the materials and jewels to make her creations to sell at winter Christmas craft markets. Discarded fur coats in the new age of PETA awareness were given a purpose. The Santas were beautiful. I would have bought two or three but they were fifty dollars and I had few funds in those days for Christmas decorations that didn’t come from my kids art classes. But, I bought one and it is one of my most treasured decorations when I open the box of bobbles and candles to adorn my holiday home. But, it isn’t just the Father Christmas that makes me smile it is the memory of a special time with 

a treasured friend

Author: Off Grid Islanders

We are a retired couple living on an off grid island on the West Coast

6 thoughts on “A treasured friend

  1. Sal is like you. I am like E. I’ve been known to pull over when all the digits on the odometer are the same or are our phone number or some other cosmic milestone but rarely and reluctantly for anything else. Mind you, I have an attraction to ghettos. The poorer and a-shambles, the more fascinating. I stop for ghettos. Waterfalls and cathedrals don’t do it for me but Stonehenge does…go figure? And a big alligator or Grizzly gets me, too. A while back, we cruised the 100 block Hastings Street at midnight to see the vampires, Nightstalkers and zombies. Terrifying but fascinating. End of Days on a streetscape level.

  2. What a beautiful Santa.

  3. He is very special, and all the more so for the history, the memory, and for your having met the maker. How wise you were to have bought him. But I keep thinking of you surrounded by all this fabric back in a time when you dismissed it as having nothing to do with you. Oh, how we change and expand our horizons, or at least you have.

Leave a Reply