Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vancouver Island magic

It's my 31st wedding anniversary and it's a beautiful day. The sun is shining and the sprinklers are on in Hoey Memorial Park in downtown Duncan, the "City of Totems" in the heart of the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.

The grass looks extra green, a city works crew is planting flowers and the air is filled with a sunny disposition. I'm feeling good and I'm ready for storytelling.
Marriage Totem Pole carved by Harvey Alphonse and Nelson Canute
Photo by Ron Greenaway
Carving by Harvey Alphonse
and Nelson Canute

© City of Duncan

I'm wandering around Duncan's original train station where my "Totem Pole Tours" sign is at the corner. I'm watching the daily island commuter train arrive. Leaving from Victoria in the morning, this train passes through Duncan on its way up island to Courtney and again on its way back to Victoria in the afternoon. It's 9:35 in the morning, and everything in my world seems pretty much on schedule.

Down the tracks, I can see red lights flashing and hear the clanging at the crossing. Blasts from its air horn announce the arrival. A train has stopped daily at this location since a farmer named Thomas Duncans allowed the railway to put this passenger stop on his property in 1886. The train commanded attention even within the buzz of cars and people on this particularly busy Monday morning at the corner of Station and Canada streets.

While this old passenger train comes to a rest, the conductor confidently hops off and places a small platform on the ground to assist people getting off and on.

A few people get off and I see a couple walk over to admire a totem pole I know to commemorate marriage.

I walked over and introduced myself as the City of Duncan's Totem Tour Guide. They were a married couple from Oklahoma, undertaking travels to celebrate, as I was told, 43 years of marriage today.

As we chatted, the gentleman disclosed he had had cancer but after treatment was recently declared "free" of the disease. "This is another reason we're celebrating", he said. He appeared in good health and I spontaneously said so.

I tell them, "The totem pole you're looking at is a pole that celebrates marriage. It was carved by Harvey Alphonse who was Chief of the local Cowichan people".

I point out the two eagles, one above the other, and the fact that eagles mate for life. "That's why two eagles were chosen for this pole. First Nations people believe marriage is a sacred and eternal union. The eagle at the top has wings wrapped around a human and is protecting that person in a state of marriage and the eagle at the bottom is standing on and supporting the partner in that relationship. It teaches spiritual values of marriage ", I said.

Well.... both the lady and the gentleman turned and faced one another. He looked at her, put his arm around her, she smiled at him, they kissed, smiled into one another's face and then looked back at me. I saw their eyes sparkle. They asked me to take a photograph of them, arm in arm, by the marriage pole. They were so happy they glowed... in a special shared moment.

It seemed appropriate, at least to me, that I share with them that "today is my 31st wedding anniversary". They broadly smiled and shook my hand and insisted on taking a picture of me by the marriage pole!

By 9:55 am, I've said goodbye to my visitors from Oklahoma, the train has pulled away and a magical shared moment had left me feeling spiritually connected.

...and... ready to tell another story.

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