The Comox Valley is Where I'm From
I am from the Puntledge River. From its current, its fish. Water courses through my valley; water and salmon its bloodstream; shoals and channels that change with a forty-foot tide.
I’m from Courtenay, Cumberland; the Comox Glacier, Forbidden Plateau; Goose Spit; Royston; Buckley, Fanny, and Deep Bays; I’m from the islands–Denman and Hornby; from Highways 19 and 19a; the Strait Of Georgia; from Circlet Lake; and in the distance, the Beaufort Range. I’m from the Salish Sea.
I’m from Newborn L121 spotted with L94, a 20-year-old presumed to be the Orca mother, about 24 kilometres off Westport on the mid-Washington coast. I’m from “we absolutely need every single one of these whales,” I’m from “we’re holding our breath.”
I’m from Paradise Meadows in Strathcona–designated a park in 1911 from the forest that was already old when Captain Cook landed at Nootka Sound 1778.
I’m from snow and lack of snow on Mt. Washington.
I’m from soccer at Mark Isfeld, Saturday mornings September through March.
I’m from corner kick, dribble, from “spread out!” “run up the line,” “good job!”
I’m from did your basement flood?
I’m from are you still boiling your water?
I’m from tubing down the Puntledge, from walking across the 5th street Bridge in bathing suits, carrying giant inner tubes on our heads. I’m from Lucky.
I’m from the endangered Vancouver Island marmot, the endangered Vancouver Island wolf, from the coastal black-tailed deer. I’m from the red-breasted nuthatch, from blue grouse, ruffled grouse, the white-tailed ptarmigan.
I’m from the unceded traditional land of the K’omoks people. From the fishing stakes visible from Dyke Road.
I’m from the Western red cedar that’s been warmed by the sun all afternoon, its fragrant smell. From Douglas fir, western hemlock, creeping juniper. From lupin, monkey flower, Indian paintbrush, phlox.
From bean suppers at the Miners Memorial weekend in June; flowers on Ginger Goodwin’s grave; from a rose ceremony in the Japanese and Chinese cemeteries.
I’m from the skull of the Stellar sea lion pup found on Lerwick Road and dated to 12,570 BCE.
I’m from poetry, from practice, from writing it down on table napkins or the inside sleeve of a pack of gum, or my journal or arm. I’m from tweeting a poem written on my phone, I’m from 30 women at Zocalo with something to say and a voice to say it in.
I’m from the blanketing ceremony at Puntledge elementary school. I’m from elders sitting nervously in the gym after a lifetime of being unable to set foot in a school building. And now they have. They’re here. School children stand before them with blankets hanging over their extended arms.
I’m from 5th avenue, early winter mornings, the Christmas lights still on.
Je suis de la vallée de Comox. Une vallée ancienne.
I’m from clothespins in Courtenay, I’m from don’t you dare hang your wash in Comox. I’m from the Shriners in their wine-red fezzes weaving down 5th Ave in their go-carts in the Canada Day parade.
I’m from the high school teacher who wants to teach poetry but who finds it difficult; who doesn’t really know how.
I’m from single mothers pushing their babies in strollers along the Air Park; I’m from St. George’s soup kitchen; from my 91 year-old mother Wilhelmina who works there, serving up glasses of milk. I’m from books for each one of the valley’s 500 babies born this year; I’m from the women knitting toques for newborns in distant countries; I’m from baseball caps; from Family Literacy Day; from that same high school teacher suddenly remembering a poem she wrote when she was 16 and how amazing it felt to put love into words; I’m from her wanting that same feeling for her students. I’m from dropouts; from homelessness; from the Courtenay Library and the people who walk through its cedar doors.
I’m from the elder who braved those doors for the first time in her life so that she could welcome everybody to her traditional territory. Gilakas'la.
I acknowledge George Ella Lyon’s much-borrowed “I am From.”