But I did live in a place called Bowen Island, and like Oz, it was a dark and disturbing time for me.
Like Dorothy, I was about 12/13 years old and it was the absolute worst time/year of my entire life. Unlike Dorothy, I didn't have a pet chicken (though I did have a horse) nor was I put in a mental asylum nor did I meet a witch who could take her head off and exhange it for another.
But it was almost that bad.
Bowen Island is a 8 km wide island in Howe Sound, off the coast of West Vancouver. When I lived there, about 3,000 people lived there, with 4,000 deer. Now the battle between deer and human is about even. Bowen Island is only a 20-minute ferry ride from the mainland and a consequent 20-min drive from the terminal to downtown. It is a favourite hangout for hippies (I recall the school bus being filled with pot smoke).
It is also a favourite retreat for celebrities such as Robin Wiliams, Harrison Ford, Tony Parsons, etc. and a filmmaking mecca for such "works of art" such as The Fog and Double Jeopardy (Ok, so I really liked Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd together).
I lived in snooty, snotty West Vancouver for several years before my parents had enough of the rich bitches and decided to relocate and buy a ten-acre property on nearby Bowen Island. My mom would be able to design her dream home. I would get to have a barn on the property and my own horse.
It was frightfully indulgent for a pre-teen like me and, in hindsight, a terrible idea. But my parents were having some problems at the time, most notably with my then 16-year old Asperger's diseased brother who just started dabling with hard drugs.
They figured that by isolating my brother and giving me a horse, things would turn out OK for all of us.
Never mind that the we were moving us to a house that cost more than we thought to build, never mind that my father had to commute via ferry and then a 45-minute drive each day to work and back, never mind that I had to take the ferry to school, never mind that while trying to get my brother away from drugs we unknowingly moved into the pot capital of BC, never mind that I would end up getting a horse but that the barn would never get built and the horse would hate me.
To make a long story short, it was the worst year of my life. My family life fell apart, my brother stole and sold everything that was dear to my parents for drugs. Grade 7 in Junior High was terrible for me as I was tormented by the "cool" kids left and right, somethings that they said still affect my self-esteem to this day. I developed terrible stomach pains at this time as a way to deal with all this stress.
Did I mention my horse hated me?
Anyway, we left Bowen Island and it's 4,000 deer after a year or two. We were so eager to get out that my parent's sold our "dream house" without making any money on it. In fact we lost money. And my family problems got worse, combined with me moving to a new town and a new school in the middle of the 8th grade. But leaving Bowen Island was the best thing that we did.
I really wanted to make this a long story short but that's not going to happen...
At any rate, where I am going with this story was that on the weekend, I returned to Bowen Island for the first time since 1994.
A lot can change in 13 years.
But the same, lame old ferry is the same. The very same ferry that one day missed the dock and plowed through all the ferries in the Marina.
Ross and I came to Bowen Island because he was jonesing for a relaxing weekend away for the city and I had a hard time coming up with any sort of wilderness retreat that was cheap and close to the city.
But thanks to a few hours of googling I came up with:
We did nothing all day. Napped. Read. Drank wine and beer on the porch and listened to far-off tribal drums in the darkness. Attempted to make pizza in a microwave.
The best part of the night was when we were soaking in the wee hours in the outdoor hot tub. The cloudy sky was a hazy shade of pink, which we later attributed to the lunar eclispe.
Our little getaway also consisted of me taking Ross on a driving tour of the island. We went past my old equestrian center where I used to take lessons.
I was delighted to find the center still up and running, with a Norwegian Fjord cross that was anamored with me...and my hay. Yay!
Afterwards, I took him (erm, Ross, not the horse) past my house. This was a big moment to me and I was surprised that it still looked relatively the same. Although, there have been some add-ons made so it's a lot bigger than when we built it. But hey, my mum's designs still ran through it, and as did my memories.
What also ran through it was a new road that went behind the property. I remember 13 years ago, filming movies with my rusty camcorder about dinosaurs (um, toy dinosaurs...stop motion...that kind of thing. Sigh. No wonder I was tormented in junior high) and all that was back then was an old logging road that no one used. Except for me.
The wilderness, wild-growing ferns and muddy terrain was my backyard, my livelihood, where I would eagerly escape my problems by exploring its depths each day, all day. Now it was reduced to a paved road that led to a golf course and condo developments.
At one point, as we followed the road and it curved around the small, forested hill behind the house, I remembered my days climbing into the forest. Sometimes I brought my dogs, sometimes it was just me. I remembered one day I brought up a small lunch box and wrote my own summary for a time capsule. I wondered if anyone had found it, the chicken scratch writing that stated "If you find this, you should consider yourself lucky because I am probably a famous filmmaker by now."
It's funny, the optimisim of youth regardless of the negativity that surrounded me.
We ended our stay in Bowen with long massages at a local spa, a tasty meal at the then-only coffee shop where I first heard the song "Linger", followed by a stroll around the town and waterfront.
Which was just how I had remembered Bowen Island. Thirteen years had passed and it existed in my mind like some vague fog that you try and grasp as you wake from sleep. But now that I returned to the past, returned to the place that did so much to me and to my family, I am able to look at it, accept it and put it aside.
This weekend I created new memories.