Cakewalk Chronicles – Love, Wellness and finding one’s special place

Esther Darlington MacDonald's take on living life in a small Interior town.

Wellness is moving

If Wellness means getting people moving, our second annual Festival could not have been more successful. All the aspects of wellness were visible, felt and heard July 19-20 in downtown Ashcroft.

I did not attend all the events, because I had the very pleasant privilege of attending the wedding of Bianca and Robert in Legacy Park on Saturday. Those two events sure made for an exciting weekend. But I was there to see the distribution of the Tryathalon awards by Vicky Trill and see the joy on childrens’ faces, and I sure enjoyed the thumping beat of the Zumba dancing with Nicole Archibald and even joined in the stretch Yoga with Nicole Tattum. These rheumatic bones of mine squealed a protest, but the spirit of the moment won out and those 10 minutes did me the world of good.

The morning dawned dark and more than a little broody. But it cleared up and the sun came out and the clouds turned into those welcoming great puff balls. By the time of the wedding at 1:30 pm, the day couldn’t have been more glorious. A gentle breeze blew through the park. Darryl Starbucks in his vintage 30’s sedan brought the bride in, and Micheal Godau, her handsome father, led her down the grassy aisle to Pastor Karl Samek, who did the honours.

Bianca looked like a model stepped out of one of those bridal fashion magazines. A strapless white gown, with a flaring skirt and long train, – the train held by two sweet little tots, – had cameras busy. The atmosphere of love and fellowship was wonderful. Lots of hugs and kisses. There’s nothing like a wedding to make people feel grateful for all the blessings of life. Ashcroft’s setting for this, as my dear old friend Una Godau, grandmother of the bride, pointed out, was nothing short of magnificent.

Una looked lovely in a teal blue wide brimmed straw hat and matching jacket and dress. On Sunday morning, I brought Una back to my Manor apartment and gave her a simple breakfast and we had a good gab. Mostly about family. She was impressed with my apartment. Una lives also in a senior’s complex in Nanaimo.

The Cakewalk Itself

Yes, it has a self. More place than self, maybe. The walk is short, as all Cakewalks are. It extends from the Canadian Legion at the corner of Third and Brink to the lane that separates the liquor store from the Ashcroft Bakery.

There’s a cool little alcove tucked in beside the Bakery, with a table and umbrella to shade and protect. Before 8 am every morning through the week day, each chair is filled with workers having their morning coffee and ordering their noon day take away lunch. I am usually there at the tail end of their rest, but the gist of it seems to be sports. Lately, soccer.

Around the corner is the Bakery itself. The sight of which is rustic, humble, and kind of cute. Like all bakeries, the air around and inside is redolent with mouth watering odours. Block buster cinnamon buns, bread, pasties and pies, all of it wafting across the busy street.

And there is conversation: The music of words. There’s the litany rant you might hear in a Dublin pub. There’s sporadic grunting. The kind reminiscent of the Inuit throat singers who “sing” nose to nose. And inside the Bakery, there’s more prose, all of it bathed in the odours of cinnamon and sugar and sausage rolls fresh out of the oven.

Now that is what the bakery means to me. It might not be the screech of laughter… (although I hold each woman’s right to screech if she feels like screeching). It isn’t the beat of a heart bent over a small chocolate laced cream puff, unconsciously yearning for something a little larger, possibly, a chocolate laced eclair. (But you know, we must all obey the common part of our senses now and then.) It isn’t the litany of sparrows chirping ceaselessly as they peck at the crumbs on the sidewalk.

No. It’s the chemistry of the place. The mix of habitat, both human and divine that defines what I think of Ashcroft.

Maui artist will visit Ashcroft

I’ve just learned that my daughter, Nadine Ramelb will be visiting her mom in Ashcroft. I expect to enjoy that special brand of exotic in her petite frame (she’s actually shorter than her mom).

Nadine has made Maui her home for over 30 years, where she is well known as an artist. Her paintings hang in many public buildings in Maui. She contributes to causes like shelters for women in distress, and is a devoted member of the Baha’i Faith, a religion that has a large following in Hawaii. She is working on a biography titled, Carmel Culture, a mixed race child growing up in the 50’s and 60’s (in Winnipeg and Vancouver).

Nadine tells me via e mail that she expects to be in Canada on Aug. 9. It always amazes me how communication has speeded up so dramatically over the past 10 or 20 years.  Nadine can send an e mail in seconds and I can reply. As a senior growing up in a world where letter writing and face to face visits were a way of life, telecommunications in today’s world can be pretty intimidating. If you let it. You really have to get out there and find the magic of it all. You miss so much when you don’t.

Painted toe nails

The old saying that old age is “not for the faint of heart” isn’t one which gibes with the old ladies I know in Ashcroft. That’s for sure. Old ladies who have pedicures and painted toenails with flowers and shiney bits on them. Old ladies who treat themselves to weekly luncheons in our area dining establishment. Who play Bingo and enjoy a good laugh. Old ladies in their 90’s (some of them), who parachute from airplanes, who zip line at Whistler. Those kind of old ladies. They kind of make you shake your head with admiration. Still enjoying life. Hugely.

HP Sauce

Bob Tuohey and I argue. We like to argue.

Recently, talk at the Bakery was about that pipeline from the tar sands in northern Alberta which they want to build through the Rockies to the west Coast. I said it was a “pipe dream”. Bob disagreed. We have a $10 bet going.

Now, just a few minutes before that argument, I told Bob that I liked HP sauce – the trail of which he puts along the top of his morning sausage roll. But I found it too pricey.

Well, some mornings later, Bob rose from his chair outside the Bakery, and said, “I have something to give you Esther”. Oh Oh, moaned Donna. (expecting the worst) (as did I). A minute or so later, Bob came out with a bottle of HP sauce. There was a ribboned tag on the neck. One side of the tag said, “Esther’s Private Reserve”. The other side of the tag said, “Like HP sauce has persevered, so will the pipe lines”.

Black pioneer history in B.C.

I am re-reading Crawford Killian’s excellent books on the history of black migration from California to B.C. in 1859. Some were former slaves. Discrimination in the U.S. was particularly ugly for all persons of colour.

Governor James Douglas invited the black immigrants to settle in Saltspring Island. The Island at that time was largely uncultivated, and the governor was wise to want it developed. Douglas himself was of half race descent. His mother was thought to be Creole and his father was a Scottish plantation owner.

The black pioneers were truly remarkable in rebuilding their lives. Some of them became notable citizens. Mifflin Gibbs was acting mayor of Victoria at one point, and a successful business man. He once declared, “The world is my country and all mankind my countrymen”. Others were teachers, farmers, miners. And at least one of them was a woman poet.

When I came to B.C. in 1959 from Manitoba, I met some of the descendents of these black pioneers  on Saltspring Island. Most of them had inter married and created what my daughter has called a “carmel culture”. Anyway, the title of Crawford Killian’s book is Go Do Some Great Thing. And yes, that is what these  pioneers did. They did great things. Helped build the Province of British Columbia.

Esther Darlington MacDonald

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