“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Steve Jobs (1955-2011) “At the bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique being, only once on this earth; Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
She was a skilled gardener and the woman who taught me to savour Salal berries. My grandmother was also the cement that bound my mom, dad, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, brothers and sister into an unlikely amalgam that she called ‘the family’. She did this without the benefit of past experience – as her only sibling, a brother, died as a young man fighting a fire and their extended family lived thousands of miles away in England. And yet somehow she became a matriarch…the head gardener of her own family tree, carefully preserving our collective memories and tending to the many living branches. She was a woman of eclectic interests who passed unto to me her love of gardening, geology and natural history, but perhaps her most enduring quality was her ability to love you for exactly who you are. I witnessed this first hand at a family reunion in the early 1970’s when I met her dad, my greatgrandfather, for the first and only time. I knew from heresay that my grandmother had a difficult family life as a young girl, much in part to her father’s drinking and gambling at the time. And yet when she spoke of him it was always stories of better times when her and her dad would take the ferry to North Vancouver and go hiking for the day – eating Salal berries and visiting the many logging camps nestled in the then wooded slopes. He looked uncomfortable when he first arrived at the reunion and to be honest, none of us knew what to expect…and yet it only took one loving glance and a hug from his daughter for him to fit right in. Needless to say, we had a lovely day. Many years later I was working as a landscape foreman in and around those same north shore forests that she and her father used to hike, only now they were known as the British Properties. As was my habit, I would often wander through the forest during my lunchbreak and one day I came across the remains of an old logging camp in the form of a wooden dam and flue. I couldn’t help but wonder if I hadn’t stumbled into one of Gran’s happy memories and I have to admit that the Salal berries growing there were particularly sweet. To this day I try to hold true to one thing she taught me, that the best person you can be is yourself.