tofino winter of our dis-contempt

Tofino Winter of our Dis-contempt

by Jessica Birnbaum, Tofino

the letter 'I'I came here as an unsuspecting Australian with a pocket full of Canadian dreams, a city girl in search of new experiences across the Pacific. The rainbow of my reasons led me here, to a place that glistened gold. Tough City, eh?

We’d see about that.

Summer in Tofino, happy days indeed! I wore a wetsuit for the first time (albeit back to front) out there on the water, surf board twice as big as me, drowning in enthusiasm for all the holidaying folk to see. I was awestruck by oversized sea wrack and other foreign debris, driftwood lined beaches as far as the eye could see. Whales, seals, otters the sheer abundance of ocean life almost beyond my reckoning. I endured physical misery for spectacular pay off and climbed to the top of Lone Cone, then melted away all that lactic acid in the nurturing arms of Hot Springs Cove. I began a passionate affair with Chesterman Beach whilst secretly dating Tonquin. The cool summer nights harboured possibility. Ah yes, magenta and violet and all things nice, that was the life for me.

Then arrived Fall’s fog encasing the town, crudely distorting our view as we stumbled around in the dark hoping for illumination. Fortunately the Cold Water Classics lit the way, an explosive week to be a Tofitian and in hindsight a fitting crescendo to Fall’s mysterious ways. We gloried, deliciously unaware the last wave of summer had long since crashed ashore. Lurking in the shadows winter patiently crouched.

I woke up one morning in post apocalyptic confusion where had all the people gone? The revelry, the carelessness, the days longevity gone. Caught in a perpetual state of grief the sky cried down as if mourning the loss of life as we had loved it. Holy stress festival, Tough city is right! The rain in Tofino in winter is nothing short of relentless. In my darkest hour, Day 200 away from the mainland, I wondered if the rest of the world still existed? Lonely just wouldn’t leave me alone, if only I’d found a husband to stem the loneliness of winter. Never mind that! How would I ever get across to the mainland to find that elusive moisturizer I so desperately pined for? Rained in, I tell you, rained in! The tourists had left, the carefree locals to Mexico and those who remained nestled into hibernation with a belly full of Tacofino. Then something magical happened…

In an act of defiance the community drew breath, the isolation fostered a desire to retaliate so we armoured up, rain jacket and pants, essential pancake thick woollen socks, gum boots, thermals, no holds barred. I get to know people by their rain coats, by the look of sheer determination on their face as they peddle their bike. Their bravery ignited in me new found fearlessness, I challenged mother nature to show me her wrath. The sideways rain served as torturous lashings sent down to break me, but true Tofitians can not be broken! We were reunited at Groovy Movie all hoping to get our hands on that illusive new release, united as one after the deluge. Rain – pfft, a walk in the park! Next?!

Darkness. A fool I once knew asked me “What’s Tofino like?” to which I responded in earnest, and in a tone I hoped communicated take heed my friend “It’s super dark at night.” Now this fool laughed out loud at my seemingly obvious response, but he wasn’t laughing when he found himself on the bike path at night without a flashlight. Did anyone say panic? What a delight to behold then when the rain stops and the clouds part. Look up look up, for there are more stars than there could ever be wishes amidst an ever-changing moon. It’s magical. Afraid of the dark? Not I. What else you got?

Blackouts. This can unsettle even the most reclusive of hermits. Is it our perverse fear of death by gradual boredom? Or the complete system overhaul required to bring your brain up to speed with what’s happening: no I couldn’t dry my hair, cook my pasta, heat my room, surf the information superhighway… but a candlelight world ignited creativity! Once again our pint sized community reigned supreme: flashlights bedazzled street corners, shadows flickered amber from windows facing streets, and neighbours gathered to play good old fashioned board games. Tofitians could turn water into wine if we needed to. Human ingenuity outshone any electrical charge… power to the people. Game over?

Then there came snow. A world of colour turned black and white, the Pass, our only lifeline to the outside world cut off. The ferries docked. We were a community poised and alert. Mother Nature watches over my shoulder as I write my third act climax: earthquakes and tsunamis. She’s in everything we do.

But before you can say seasonal depression, the glorious healing sun returns. If you look closely you’ll notice us Tofitians drinking with reckless abandon from her vitamin D stream. Awakening from hibernation needs to be a gradual process tread softly for we are we still delicate. It has been a tumultuous journey one that has taught me the value of community and the power of an experience shared. We all know we must let the soil rest to prepare for new growth. Spring arrives, we share a knowing nod a respectful wink with our fellow comrades we have come out the other side in tact.

Tough City whether sun, rain, snow, darkness or light, it really has been an absolute pleasure.

Jessica Birnbaum

Tofino Time April 2011

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The winter of our dis-contempt - Jessica Birnbaum writes about her first winter in Tofino.

tofino time april 2011