Sorting through the boxes

Have you saved every letter you ever got and every photo you ever took? It seems we have, boxes and boxes of them, moved from house to house, stored in attics, garages, rented storage spaces. We moved 21 times in the last 40 years, although we did spend 23 years in one house. We’ve discarded so much in the process, but these boxes moved each time, with the idea that… Well, it’s hard to remember the exact idea that made these items worth saving.

Going through them now, discarding letters from people I can’t remember, wondering what to do with letters from the dead, I do find random pieces of our history, like this, the receipt for $25 the first month’s rent on the first place Larry and I lived together, a moldy, decrepit and perfectly wonderful float house on Cowichan Lake in Youbou, BC. We rented it from Mr. and Mrs. Gold.

Youbou recipt_optLooking at this receipt brings back that month, March, 1969, living on practically nothing in that drafty cabin with its smelly oil stove and gorgeous setting. I remember the shyness of first living with someone, listening to Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, Cream, the Chambers Brothers, Dylan–all new to me, learning to add cinnamon to French Toast, friends visiting from California, various adventures and misadventures.

1942 Float House at Camp 6_optThe float house looked something like this if you take away the other houses and canoe,  cut off the extension on the left and add a footbridge from the shore. It was three rooms, furnished with rickety chairs and table, a saggy bed in each bedroom. There must have been a bathroom, though I don’t remember it or how the plumbing worked in relation to the lake. The lake itself was magnificent. In fact, if you plunked the float house at the end of this walkway, you ‘d have a sense of it.

youbou1_optOne epiphany I remember, sitting  on the dock one evening at sunset was that if you believed in God–and the sunset was performing its divine light show over the lake–everything that happened to you would be a manifestation of his care. It would be a great comfort to believe in that, but of course, there was no faking belief. For those of us without it, the existential anxiety of living in the world was a given. But as keenly as I felt that anxiety–and it was much stronger then, my whole uncharted life before me–I preferred, or rather was rooted in, unbelief so had to make the best of it. So much for my thoughts just before my 21rst birthday. Somewhat similar to my thoughts now.

Anyway, thinking of that time made me think of this poem by Robert Creeley, one of my favorites of his:


I approach with such
a careful tremor, always
I feel the finally foolish

question of how it is,
then, supposed to be felt,
and by whom. I remember

once in a rented room on
27th street, the woman I loved
then, literally, after we

had made love on the large
bed sitting across from
a basin with two faucets, she

had to pee but was nervous,
embarrassed I suppose I
would watch her who had but

a moment ago been completely
open to me, naked, on
the same bed. Squatting, her

head reflected in the mirror,
the hair dark there, the
full of her face, the shoulders,

sat spread-legged, turned on
one faucet and shyly pissed. What
love might learn from such a sight.

Robert Creeley

2 thoughts on “Sorting through the boxes

  1. As I was doing some research on “floathouses on Cowichan Lake” earlier today and ran across your wonderful account in Sorting through the Boxes, your time spent in Youbou, (Golds floathouse) in 1969 and your additional thoughts. Your having used the rent receipt with the blog was wonderful!

    I have, for the past seventeen years or so, written a weekly local history column for the local newspapers beginning with The Lake News and presently the Lake Cowichan Gazette. Coincidently my last weeks column was a piece on Wilmer H. (Hazelwood) Gold, photographer, and man of many talents while next weeks column is about the use of floathouses on the river and lake some years ago. |Talk about coincidence !)

    I wanted to comment that I thoroughly enjoyed your account and seeing Wilmers handwriting on the rent receipt led me to suggest that perhaps you may wish to donate the receipt to the local museum (of which I am a board member) the Kaatza Station Museum and Archives.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful piece of history with those who find it of great interest and for helping to save our history.

    (aka Raleigh)

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