SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2002

SpruceRoots Magazine - July 2003

A Very Fine Feeling

by Erica Thompson

Fern and Bob Henderson were weekend wanderers. Walking the forests of the Tlell River was a way they lived their lives together. After arriving on the Islands in the early 1970’s, the couple agreed to make Monday an official part of their weekend so they might better nurture their backcountry curiosities.

Amongst their favorite tramping grounds were roads built by the homesteaders in the early 1900s. The likes of the Inside Road and North Road formed networks linking farms through the forest along the eastern edges of the watershed from Miller Creek to the Pontoons. It was here the Hendersons often found themselves and as the years passed, rituals and stories of their making were built between the two.

Fern sips her tea perched on a chair overlooking the beach at Lawn Hill. The daisy homestead and the tin cup is one of my favorite Tlell tales, she says.

One day, while following game trails the Hendersons stumbled across the remains of an old cabin and root cellar barely visible in the early 1970’s. They came to know this clearing in the woods as the ‘daisy homestead’.

“As you walk the North Road you’ll see daisies in a clearing. Walking in, you can locate the buried house. Following an obvious pathway, you will come to the cup,” tells Fern. The cup was tin and its mottled blue exterior well weathered by the time the Hendersons found it hanging from a low swung cedar branch along a creek. It still held water. Fern figures it had been there since 1914 or so when such tin ware was popular.

“The first thing we did when we arrived at the daisy homestead was cross the clearing to the cedar tree. Taking down the cup from its place in the branches we would fill it with fresh water from the creek. Next, either one of us, would raise the cup honouring all the people who had come before us. We would drink and wonder about the lives of those who had lived here before,” Fern recalls. For nearly thirty years, they arrived and departed from this clearing.

As the years passed Fern witnessed the wind and rain weathering the cup. The rim began to flake and curl away from its body. The handle itself began to flake, rusting away from the branch. One afternoon Fern arrived to find the cup had fallen from the branch into the moss below.

Time passed but she did return to the daisy homestead. This time she carried with her a bright blue cup. Fern’s journeys and rituals continue today as she still walks in the backcountry.

“At least once a week I need to do something that revives me and this usually involves walking eight to ten kilometres. I know the very fine feeling of peace and contentment; lasting three to four days after walking in the forest. A walk through the dunes doesn’t last as long,” says Fern. The security of the forest rejuvenates me and helps me prepare for changes in my life, such as my declining eyesight or seeing that the flow of little creeks has changed because of beavers or logging. The rituals help me remember those who were here and are now gone. The sense of contentment found in the forest has increased since Bob passed away, she says.

Today, one of the ‘daisy homesteads’ legacies is found in the white petal daisies that have been parceled out from the clearing and bloom throughout the Islands. The other swings from a low swung cedar. •

In Memorium: notes from an afternoon spent with Fern Henderson, November 23, 2000.
Water Flowing to the Sea: the Tlell Watershed Legacy Project..