Cougar Annie's Garden
This wasn't quite what I expected when we talked about reading this for book club, but I am really glad that I have read it. If you are interested in learning a wee bit more of this truly interesting character from west coast history - do take a gander at this website for a little more information.
Not quite a coffee table book, not quite a biography, not quite a historical piece, and not quite just a non-fiction account of Cougar Annie and the Boat Basin region of the west coast of Vancouver Island... this book is many things, and although I stalled out midway through the book, I am really glad that I have read it. It felt like something I would have read in school - but I enjoyed it far more not being forced to read it for marks!
Having lived near the coast all my life, and spent many days up the Sunshine coast and on Vancouver Island, I could appreciate the story that this book had to tell. It wasn't as much about Cougar Annie as I thought it would be, but it is a real blend of her history, the history of the time, a story of survival, and a story of how the land has been used and abused, and then revered over time. You can learn a lot about the history of the west coast by spending a few hours reading this book and enjoying the beautiful pictures, and appreciating the fortitude and strength it took for Annie to live and thrive in this environment, and the garden that she tended for a lifetime. Hard not to admire someone with the kind of grit and survival instinct that Annie had - very practical, very wily, very much an interesting character.
Different things struck me as I read this book - memories of my grandparents when they had a store in Pender Harbour, how invasive broom is, wandering along and my picking my way along the rocks along the shore, the smell of a boat on the water, herring and dogfish, the wonders and rhythms of being close to the ocean. Then the wildness of the land, of trying to tame it and bend it to your will, the desire to carve out a garden and not always succeeding (hell, I see that in my own backyard)... this incredible place we call home. The North American west is truly like the wild west in many ways, and reading this helps you appreciate what BC is beyond the borders of the GVRD and this crazy woman - how she survived - and having had two kids in hospitals, I couldn't imagine having had most of my kids at home, literally isolated in the middle of nowhere.. gives you a different kind of appreciation for what hard work truly is.