“You realize you’re heading straight into the heart of tsunami country,” my mother warned when we finalized our bookings for a family vacation to Tofino, British Columbia.
Tofino is a small town perched on Clayquot Sound, on the far west coast of Vancouver Island. In March 2011, when we were starting to consider the area as the celebration site of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, there was a tsunami warning. People were evacuated. My mother thought twice.
“There’s only one road out of the town — the road along the coast. Oh! And there could be an earthquake!”
Nevertheless, we decided that the first growth rainforests and the pounding pacific, ideal for sea-kayaking and surfing, were worth the risk of a tsunami. But my mother packed her flippers, just in case.
The night before we left, I wrote a note to a friend: “Providing my kayak doesn’t get flipped by a whale, I don’t end up in a back brace after my intensive yoga retreat, or my surfboard doesn’t get swept out to sea, I should be back by Aug. 27. We’ll catch up then!”
In all the things we tried to prepare for, it never occurred to us that we’d have to leave the earthquake and hurricane survival kits at home for our house sitters. Even though we’ve had numerous flights cancelled due to inclement weather, it never occurred to us we’d be stranded on the far, far west coast because of a storm named Irene.
It’s true that there is only one road that cuts through the heart of Vancouver Island, taking people from the more populated cities on the east coast to the rugged, untamed, ancient west coast. If you want to get from Nanimo and Tofino, you have to traverse 125 miles of narrow, winding asphalt with a maximum speed limit of about 40 mph.
To get to that road, you have to take a 2 hour ferry from Vancouver.
To get to Vancouver from New York, you have to fly 3,000 miles.
Basically, to once again quote my mother, if we’re in Tofino and something happens back at the ranch, “we can do fuck all.” But what were the odds that something would happen back home and we’d have to hurry back? Small, surely. And then Brian called to tell us about the hurricane baring down on New York.
For the first time in 10 days, we flicked on the television and logged on the internet. Panic quickly followed. Our flight was cancelled. There’s no way home until Tuesday. What will happen to the old willows by the stream, with their short roots and their overgrown limbs? What about the dogs? Will Brian and Cliff be able to find the leashes?
While the boys are readying the yard, removing anything that could become a projectile, and battening down the hatches, I’m sitting on a bench in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, catching my breath after a 12k run and taking in the sunshine. The sail boats pass by and the there isn’t a cloud in the sky.