The dark and threatening afternoon sky matched the somber mood of the campground near Youbou on Vancouver Island where Jean and I had pitched our tent. “These ancient maple trees and thick evergreens create a world of shadows,” Jean said.
“Shadows that move with the wind and the flickering light of Cowichan Lake,” I added.
“The ferns are tall here, and moss hangs from every tree,” Jean said.
“Rain and sunlight,” I said, “and the sound of waves on a pebble beach.”
The sun appeared from behind a bank of clouds, and streams of light entered the dark woods. A small evergreen burst into gold, and shimmered in the warm light. “A golden tree,” Jean said. “Tree of fire,” I said. “Goddess of poetry, goddess of the hearth.”
Then the light faded, and the vision was gone. We had seen it, though. “The first Christmas tree,” Jean said.
In the night the wind blew stronger. It blew the clouds away, and stars appeared. “The stars are beautiful,” Jean said, “but the sound of trees falling in the wind is not beautiful.”
“I agree, but I think we are safe at this campsite” I said.
“I hope so,” Jean replied.
The wind whistled and roared. It sounded like a freight train coming. We could hear some of the old maple trees crashing down. “Maybe we should move away from this campground,” Jean said.
“Where could we go?” I asked.
Jean: “We could find a field somewhere.”
Sandy: “In the middle of the night?”
Jean: “It’s not midnight yet.”
Sandy: “Maybe the wind will die down.”
Jean: “Maybe it will get stronger.”
Sandy: “Some of the other campers are staying here.”
Jean: “And others are leaving.”
Sandy: “A tree could fall across the road.”
Jean: “A good reason to leave now.”
Then there was a huge crash close to our campsite. The falling tree took smaller trees with it, and a thin sapling hit the front of our truck. It didn’t do any damage, but its message was clear: “Get out of here while you still can.” We grabbed our sleeping bags and a tarpaulin to put on the ground, and jumped into the truck. I drove slowly on the narrow campground road, and prayed that all would be well.
We reached the main road, and turned in the direction of Youbou. “Now what?” I asked.
“We’ll find a place,” Jean said.
And we did find a place. We found the Youbou baseball park, and we put our tarpaulin and sleeping bags between first base and second base. The wind, which had died down a little, had blown all the clouds away, and we could see more stars than we could ever see from the city. “We’ll be safe here,” Jean said.
“I hope so,” I replied.
“I see the seven stars of the Big Dipper,” Jean said.
“The seven grandfathers,” I said.
“Say thank you to the grandfathers,” Jean said.
“Yes,” I said.
“There’s a shooting star,” Jean said, “and there’s another.”
“I see them,” I said, and then I added, “We are made of stardust, you know.”
“ I know,” Jean said. “That makes us children of the universe.”
“First Nations people use the expression ‘All my relations’ at the end of some of their ceremonies,” I said.
We watched the stars and listened to the silence of the night. Then the automatic sprinkler system clicked on, and the ball park became a fountain of water glistening in starlight.