A pack of malicious clouds covered the village of Whistler with continuous precipitation on this Tuesday morning of late August. The cool breeze and the leaves prematurely falling from the maple trees almost made us forget about the endless sunny and hot days that made our summer until now.
I opened the door of the local brasserie for business, the old wood cracking with the movement. I chose a reggae playlist, if only to bring a little sunshine on this rainy day.
Through the glass windows, I perceived a mature couple walking towards the entrance.
“Good morning,” I welcomed.
“So,” inquired the husband with a mocking smile while hanging their umbrella, ”has it been raining like this all summer?”
“Actually, we had a gorgeous summer,” I reassured with a laugh.“No drops until today. We desperately needed rain as it started to become dangerously dry.”
I wiped the bar counter and invited them to sit on the red leather stools. “Would you like some coffee to warm you up?”
The couple settled to the bar and agreed to hot beverages.
The clock on the service computer indicated 9am, but the darkness of the outside felt like it was late at night. The flowers surrounding the patio swept to one direction and the dead leaves swirled to the left side of the terrace as a strong wind picked up. We watched the rainfall, sheltered in the deserted yellowed wall bistro.
“So you guys are visiting Whistler for a few days?” I asked the couple.
“We are,” said the man, wiping the last parcels of water on his thick black framed glasses. “Actually, we haven’t been here in 9 years, but we lived here for 17 years, back in 1977.”
“1977!” I repeated with astonishment, “pretty impressive. You were part of the “making of” the town. You have seen it grow from a seed to full tree.”
“We sure did,” affirmed the man while sipping the foam of his cappuccino. “I remember when they put up Red Chair, there was just a few of us on the trails, we were so spoiled. There was only 4 or 5 lifts at that time… and how many today?”
”37.” I answered.
“37 chairs!” exclaimed the man.
“And a lot more people!” I smiled.
“I bet. That’s a reason why we left. Whistler was becoming more of an extravagant resort town rather than the home it has become to us in the recent years.”
“Where did you go after?” I permitted myself to ask.
The man looked at his wife and I could glimpse a timelapse of memories going from eyes to eyes. He explained that they moved to the lower mainland, close to the city, and found jobs there. Her as a teacher and he as a construction worker. And after a couple of years they purchased a home. “That was back in 1998 when houses weren’t in the six figures,” he explained, “but then we realized that we weren’t ready to settle down. So we sold the house and bought a sailboat. We sailed all the way to Mexico and moored there for a couple of years. Some of the best years of our lives.”
Their complicity enlightened the obscurity of the rainy day. They shared stories of their time spent on the Mexican coast, living the life of aliens, making hand made crafts from recycled debris, teaching English to adults and kids, helping building small villages and schools, all in exchange of supplies and food.
“We didn’t have any mortgage to pay, or kids to feed, or job to attend. We were free.” he smiled to his wife.
“But freedom isn’t eternal?” I doubted.
“No it’s not. That’s why after a few years, when the mooring fees drastically increased we decided to sail back to Canada,” he said. “And we were ok with that. We knew we didn’t want to raise our future kids in the city so we sold the boat and found ourselves a beach house on the Sunshine Coast and started a beautiful family.”
“No more sailing?” I dared to ask.
There was something about his smile and the quietness of his wife that made the couple a very mysterious kind. I wanted them to talk about their adventures all day. I didn’t want them to leave.
“At our age now,” responded the man after finishing his last sip of coffee, “sailing in open ocean is really exhausting and expensive. But we did get a smaller sailboat and cruise around the Gulf Islands. Valerie and I opened a small craft store. We don’t make a lot, but plenty to afford what we need.”
That was it: “what we need”. A concept that Whistler has buried long ago under tourism development and big buildings and amenities to satisfy a world based on wants. But that wise gentlemen and his timid wife had all they needed: health, food, shelter, wind, and each other.