Monday, August 07, 2006

Porchsitting and other things to do.

Somehow I never got around to climbing Tin Hat.

I came to Fiddlehead for the first time in 1994, because the prior year I had been intrigued in a Vancouver hostel by a hand-made poster that listed “walking the pig” under “things to do”, warned me that it was in an isolated location in the rainforest, and advised that I wait for the radiophone to ring at least ten times. After I became a regular guest, my favourite thing to do was porchsitting. Out there I used to listen through the open kitchen window to phone conversations (punctuated by the word “over”) with prospective guests. Before a first-timer was allowed to book, they were warned that they were expected to commit to staying three or four days until the next town-trip, be ready to do dishes, have meals cooked by staff and eat family style at big tables, have hot water only on sauna nights, and porchsit.

Amazingly, in all those years, only a few guests didn't stay till the boat day, but instead fled early back to Powell River -- an all-day hike. There were many more travellers who, having risked a significant chunk of the British Columbia leg of their Grand Tour on this one spot, came to consider that their arrival at the handmade farm gate had been a personal turning point. A number abandoned the rest of their itinerary in favour of camping in the orchard. They swapped work for food and for a sense of belonging. In fact, it was a bit of a joke how many people booked the minimum stay, and ended up, months later, reluctantly saying goodbye -- leaving heartfelt goodbyes and their addresses in the guest book.

I came to savour my arrival experience of climbing into "the Eden Express" at the marina with a bunch of strangers. The talk would flow around anticipated hikes, walks in the woods, lake swims and canoe paddles. Most visitors did do all that, but we also found ourselves enthusiastically weeding the tomatoes, playing Charades and Parcheesi, washing our clothes in buckets, sitting naked in the wood-fired sauna, and signing up on the job board. For me, there always seemed to be lots of time left over to swap stories on the porch.

For reasons to be explained elsewhere, those log benches, the iron "time to eat" triangle that children took turns ringing, the humming bird feeder, and the guest book are now gone. This blog is an attempt to create a story space for those like me, who always intended to go back there some day and climb the mountain -- and now cannot. Perhaps we can still do some more porchsitting here.