Yesterday afternoon, a friend introduced me to lovely Westwood Lake. As the name suggests, it's on the western outskirts of Nanaimo. We had a most enjoyable walk on the forested trail around the lake.
Fortunately the Nanaimo that I am getting to know is prettier than the Nanaimo I first saw. On that initial visit, I had flown into Comox, rented a car, and driven south to Nanaimo. My first impression of Nanaimo was a series of strip malls, car dealerships and shopping malls along the highway. It was not an auspicious beginning.
In this respect, Nanaimo is not alone. Many towns in British Columbia are laid out in a similar way. The town is intersected by a highway lined with strip malls, car dealerships, and the like. If this was all you saw of the town, you might be underwhelmed.
Kamloops, in the interior of BC, is a case in point. I had driven through there several times on journeys between Calgary and Vancouver. I thought it was one of the most ordinary places I'd ever seen. Then, on one occasion, I had an overnight break there. I didn't stay in a motel along the highway, but one that was right in the heart of Kamloops. I got lost on my way to the motel, and had to meander through the town for some time. But this gave me a chance to see more of the town. What a difference that drive made. I got a very different impression -- and a most favourable one at that.
In having found Nanaimo, I feel as I imagine Goldilocks did after she'd identified just the right chair, just the right plate of porridge, and just the right bed. At this juncture in my life, Nanaimo feels just right.
But it is not just Nanaimo's pretty face that makes it feel so much like home -- although the point of this post is to acknowledge that Nanaimo does have a lot of beauty. What turned the walk around Westwood Lake from a black and white picture into a colour picture, from an emotional point of view, was having a friend with whom to share the constantly changing light and other things we noticed along the way.
By arriving in Nanaimo, not just as any stranger, but as a new co-owner of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, I have been privileged to have been embraced by a circle of friends. This circle is comprised not only of Pacific Gardeners, but also their friends who share a variety of interests with them. To paraphrase Goethe, this has made Nanaimo for me an inhabited garden.