Wednesday, 16 April 2008

In Transition

Regular readers of my blog will have noticed a hiatus in the postings. The last while has been consumed by the trauma of transitioning from Todos Santos to our summer home in Comox. Unlike many others, we drive back and forth between the two locations. This provides a fascinating period of adjustment from one environment to the next, instead of the rude shock of rapid plane travel.

Having said that, I am still adjusting to the nature of this very different place. So what have I noticed as immediate differences between the two locations?

The first difference that hit both of us on our return is the absence of dust. Polvo in Todos Santos is part of life. The fine-grained taupe dust is omnipresent. It comes from dirt streets, stirred into motion by the antics of macho drivers, or from the ubiquitous construction around town. It permeates every house, even when the windows are closed. You just get used to wiping down the kitchen counters several times a day, washing down leaves of plants, and watching the haze over the well-traveled streets in town. In Comox, it just isn’t there. When we arrived in our condo, it was as if we had just left. No thick residue to wipe away. It is only the absence of something that makes you realize how much it affected your day-to-day life.

Secondly, it’s interesting how different the experience of Spring is in the two locations. In Comox, Spring is a clarion call against the wastes of Winter. Trees burst into full blossom; daffodils and hyacinths blaze against the dull wet ground and scent the air. In the marshes, externally beautiful (but awful smelling – hence the term “skunk lily) yellow lilies emerge from the decomposed trash of last years vegetation. There is Spring in Todos Santos, but it is hidden. The desert is still waiting for water, but in the cultivated parts, if you look closely, you will see mango flowers drop and baby mangoes grow daily, and citrus trees sprout new growth. The effect is somewhat lost, though, in the year-round lushness.

Perhaps the most interesting difference that hits me, though, as I evolve internally into “Comox Vic”, is the quality of the light here, and the impact that has on how you view life. I’ve written several times about the intensity and clarity of the light in Todos Santos. The vividness of colours is as if you are viewing everything as an original Kodachrome transparency. While it is beautiful, it is also constant. The spotlight of the sun is on almost every day.

The light in Comox is much more subtle. Clouds come and go constantly, and the sun is gentler, casting a more liquid light on everything. We are fortunate to live in a condo a few feet from a steeply shelving beach with a breath-taking 180° view over the Straights, bounded on one side by Mount Washington and Campbell River, on the other by Powell River, and as a backdrop, the snow-capped mainland coastal mountains. In between there is sea, and a plethora of islands. As the clouds and showers move across the sea, I have been spellbound by the changes that appear in the view. The sun shines through gaps in the clouds to highlight a cliff here, an island there, and as it sets, the pink snowcap on a mountain. Details leap out at you in a way that you didn’t see before. You realize that, in normal life, it’s easy to just glide along and not pay real attention. So while less brash, colourful and dramatic than Todos Santos, the gentle light of Comox has its own wonders.