Only the woman remained at the prow of the ship, her face pale but calm. Beneath her feet, the vessel pitched and heeled in an unsteady rhythm and on her cheeks she felt spindrift from the huge swells as they were seized by the gale-force sou'easter and blown athwart the deserted decks. She turned her head once and gazed back at the increasing expanse of roiling water that separated ship from the rocky, fog-bound shores where the cedars stood watching.
For an instant, she felt a pang of indecision. Was this really what she wanted? Yes! The answer rang in her mind, loud and clear. "Yes!" she echo'd in a soft whisper. Resolutely, she turned her face into the wind and licked salt from her lips.
Mmmmmph! Giggle! Guess what? I fooled you with my last column. You thought I was sequestered up here in my chilly little office, under the inspiring gaze of Mel Gibson (who is starting to curl up around the edges, probably from the cold and the damp,) slaving over a hot word processor as I maundered on about pastries and school lunches and what not.
"Ah Ellen," you thought, as you browsed through my latest despondent renderings, "As summer turns to winter, you trade one creative pass time for another, forever destined to be shaping recalcitrant materials into finished concoctions, palatable or otherwise. There is no rest for the weary, poor thing, as you wend your way through life, each day nose to tail like a line of elephants lumbering over the horizon."
Boy, were you wrong!
Oh, Mel and I had sat up here alright, slaving and shaping away. But we had done that in one wildly productive orgy two weeks before my mid-month column made its public appearance. And even as you browsed, pondering and pitying, far from being sequestered, I was being downright liberated!
That was me, you see, the wind-blown lady in the first paragraph, clinging to the rail of a BC ferry and headed a holiday in the warm, pea-soupy atmosphere of Vancouver Island.
Holidays have not figured largely in my life since Phil vouchsafed my full time entry into the service industry 'way back in the spring of '65. Once, we went to Edmonton to visit friends and family, I think that was in the fall of '72. Or was it '71? (The time passes so quickly when you're having fun!) And a couple of years ago, we won a trip to Hawaii and I spent an exciting spring thinking that we MIGHT go, but we didn't. So you can understand my ferment when I finally decided that come hell, high water, or an extended tourist season, with Phil or without, I was taking a vacation.
"I'm taking a trip," I would confide to virtually anyone who blundered into earshot. "I am going on a HOLIDAY!" I would say, speaking in the reverentially hushed tones of one relating a religious experience. "And I saw the Burning Bush!" another might intone. An astute observer might even note the similarity between 'holy day' and 'holiday'. To my mind, the similarity was no coincidence.
Even after 44 hurs on the bus, my enthusiasm for the whole idea had not dimmed appreciably. Rousing briefly from one of a couple hundred cat naps, I would beam dazedly in all directions and announce to my sleeping companions, "I'm from the Yukon. I'm on a HOLIDAY!" before dozing off again. And as the bus rolled onto the lower deck of the Princess of Nanaimo, I woke once more to repeat my pronouncement.
"It doesn't matter where you're from or what you're doing, you can't stay here and sleep," the sympathetic driver told me. "Get upstairs and start enjoying your vacation." Yawning and scratching, I clambered stiffly from the coach and began the ascent to the upper deck where I waffled between my desire for this new experience and the almost overwhelming desire to sneak back down to the bus and catch another forty winks. The slight uneasiness in the pit of my stomach, as the vessel lurched and yawed, convinced me that I was probably better off in the fresh air, even if it was raising hob with my hair-do. An hour later, I stumbled off the ferry and into the welcoming arms of my brother, Aksel.
For the next ten days I holidayed with a vengeance. With Ax, who has five years of living-on-the-Island-and-loving-it under his belt, and Lorene, his charming and vivacious fellow Island-booster, we toured the region. Up-Island and down, we did our tourist thing by car and ferry and shank's mare. We studied the murals at Chemainus, paced out the circumference of the 800-year-old trees in Cathedral Grove and sauntered lazily among million-dollar yachts in Sidney Harbour's floating marina.
We ate crab until we were stupefied with the succulent richness and sought out and tested the seafood chowder of a dozen inns with names like Oceanview and Tideline Manor and Shady Rest. In the high surf at Long Beach, we played like children, shrieking with laughter as the tide rolled in to snatch at our feet and legs and we stood, awed and silent, near the lighthouse at Amphitrite Point and watched the huge seas batter the steadfast black coastline.
In between times, we talked and laughed and visited, reminiscing with good old friends and having conversations of discovery with new ones. After a while, I forgot to mention that I was on a holiday. Somehow, I came to realize that my friends and family didn't really care why I was there, they were just glad I was and that we were sharing this happy time.
Then came the leave-taking, the tears, the return ferry-ride to the mainland, the interminable bus ride, North-westward Ho! Once again, I travelled in a fog of sleeping and waking, but this time, there was the tingle of recognition in all that I saw: familiar hills and valleys, highway lodges with lamps in the window, a turbulent little stream that frets and tests the framework of ice along its edges. We crossed the long bridge that passes high over the Teslin River and moments later, the coach turned in at our driveway and pulled up in front of the Old Barn, solid and silvery in the light of a full moon.. As we drew to a stop, a light came on in the porch and there stood Keel, youngest of my three stalwart sons, beaming a welcome and waiting to carry my bags.
A fellow passenger raised his head. "Huh? Whazzit? Where y' goan?"
"Hush," I said to him, smiling as I adjusted the rolled-up coat under his head. "It's OK, I'm HOME."
You talk about your religious experiences.