I didn’t see the Pacific Ocean until a couple years into my journalism career, following an assignment in Victoria, B.C. to cover a conference. After the 10-day-long conference, I visited family friends on the Island and then took the ferry to Vancouver to enjoy a few days off before flying back to Ontario in Central Canada. I have been back a half-dozen times since.
The sunsets gobsmack me. Each one is different, caressing the ocean, playing in clouds, illuminating island and coastal mountains. The waters here lap against lands and communities that feel much newer than those in eastern Canada. That sense of shiny-new place — Vancouver wasn’t incorporated until 10 years after Canada’s 1867 confederation to become an independent nation — is counterbalanced by a stronger presence of Indigenous peoples and culture which, while challenged by European settlement, was not as suppressed as it was in Canada’s east.
On one visit, I was on the University of British Columbia campus with a friend and watched as the sun set in the west, the light at first fiery orange, then soft peach, then pinks, then mauves, then blues, then finally a misty grey. It painted the mountains, the land, the ocean. I had seen such hazy colour-wash marvels in galleries and thought, what an imagination that artist has. But here was that image before my eyes: as true to this place as is a blazing yellow maple improbably contrasted to a fall blue sky in my southern Ontario home.
B.C. hews to Pacific Time, the last time zone in Canada, three hours behind the main commerce hub of Canada’s largest city, Toronto. Because of this, business tends to start early and stop early, in sync with the east. But then again, those sunsets. Being free from work so you can watch those ocean sunsets must have something to do with it, too.
Photo: John Lederman