“Compassion is the radicalism of our time.” (The XIV Dalai Lama)
I’m curled up under a well-loved quilt in the bed a comfortable camper trailer on my cousin’s hundred-acre Vancouver Island farm, and rolling a joint in anticipation of the 2015 Canadian federal election results. By camping standards, this is luxury.
The camper is parked on an oversized dirt driveway that separates the century farm home, where she lives with her husband and dog, from the patchwork goat pen that holds her three (pet) goats. It’s grown eerily quiet now that Duke, the lone male and most vocal of the four goats, has finally resigned himself to the stillness of the night. As his incessant interjections are replaced by the rolling vibration of crickets and the rumble of frogs from a nearby pond, a smooth rhythm takes over the nighttime audioscape.
More than four thousand kilometers separate me from my home in Toronto. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to watch election coverage from the final time zone to report its ballots. It’s late at night and life on the farm starts early, so everyone has gone to bed.
There is no television or internet accessible in the camper, but if I slide my wrist through the camper’s tiny pop-up roof vent just so, my phone can pick up wifi from the house. I forgive myself for appearing desperate as I raise my glowing smart phone into the night’s sky and scroll through the CBC news app.
The warm summer weather has been replaced by dazzlingly beautiful, but crisp fall days and cold, increasingly wet nights. It’s mid-October and the cold, damp winter is setting in.
From the bottoms of dresser drawers across the valley, iconic hand-knit Cowichan sweaters are a brought to the light of day. Popularized (and subsequently co-opted by mainstream fashion) after the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, Cowichan knits are surprisingly moisture-resistant and effective at keeping their wearers simultaneously warm and dry. They also command a price tag reflective of their labour-intensive production process, so for now, I make do with a Cowichan toque.
Although the abundance of lakes and rivers, mountains, and oceanfront make the Cowichan Valley a paradise by summer, it’s during the shoulder seasons, particularly during harvest time when crops are yielded, that the real magic happens.
Naturally, fruit and vegetables aren’t the only crops being harvested in bountiful British Columbia this time of year…
As a traveller, I make a point of going out of my way to sample local and seasonal goodies, so I make no exception when I join a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Victoria. I take full advantage of an exciting selection of new cannabis oils, topicals, and edibles to manage a constellation of symptoms related to chronic nerve pain and occasional seizures. I’m taken aback by the level of patient-focused care I receive at the dispensary, and over the course of my several weeks spent on The Island, I return many times to converse with staff and soak up their knowledge like a sponge.
For the first time in years, I feel in command of my own healthcare. My symptoms are under control and I feel a rush of hope and optimism. The election’s leading front-runner, Justin Trudeau, has promised to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis, if elected. There’s a lot to be gained or lost.
I take a deep breath and focus my attention back on my device. I smile and shake my head when I consider how many Canadians might be doing exactly as I am – rolling a big fat joint — at this exact moment in time.
In spite of the lack of internet and television, I somehow feel a greater sense of connection to my fellow Canadians than I can remember having in years.
I scarcely have time to crack a smile of elation upon reading that Justin Trudeau has been elected Prime Minister of Canada as my eyes fill with a flash flood of tears. So many thoughts fire in rapid succession. Firstly, I think, we did it. We really did it.
Secondly, time to spark one up.