As you know, I live remote. No roads. No hydro. No ‘grid’ services and, naturally, no stores. We are, as they say, ‘out there’. Imagine my my surprise to meet our local bag lady!
We’ve had the well established cat lady for years so the eccentric lone woman syndrome is not without company. In fact, we have a list. Cat lady is a reclusive old crone with dozens of cats living in residence with her in a small domicile not quite up to conventional health standards – even the standards of Calcutta. When the barge delivers fuel to others, it ships cat food and kitty litter to the cat lady. Used cat litter is dumped just outside. One of the local heroes went by one time and, with his front end loader, took a load of the stuff and packed it out on his barge. Didn’t get it all. Barge was full. Visualize that. If you can.
Anyway, the other day we are coming home from the store and noticed a haze of smoke at the old squatter’s cabins across the way. That usually means Mike has dropped in for a respite from his hurly burly days in the city. ‘Not this time’.
The squatter’s cabins aren’t really cabins. They are shacks with at least one wall missing each and both of them list to one side at a 15 degree tilt due to the log foundations settling on the sloping beach. Imagine a small garage with the front door missing and the wooden floor missing planks, the roof leaking, the walls with fist-sized holes open to the outdoors and no amenities whatsoever. The motel Deliverance in West Virginia is 4 star by comparison. Hell, the floating-at-monsoon villages of Bangladesh are better!
The smoke was coming from a cut-off oil drum on the beach and a small fire was being fed by a tall, thin woman in her mid fifties. Emaciated in that runway model kind of way, she was somewhat striking if not skeletal and frightening. We stayed offshore with the engine at idle. Sally and she exchanged a few words and she ended her part in the conversation with a broad smile and a curtsy verging on flirtatious for us taking the interest to check on her.
She had arrived by kayak. It was a bag-lady kayak. Old, beaten up, faded and lacking all the normal accoutrements, it was spare and basic in the manner that old shopping carts are. Adding to the impression were shallow boxes strapped on to the deck of the vessel. These boxes held her possessions. Possibly some food. A la bag lady de l’eau.
I confess to being touched by her warm and ready smile. She was likely mad but quite gracious and pleasant nevertheless. What struck me most, tho, was that she was there in the first place. One has to work hard to get this far and the Squatter’s shack is amongst the least appealing places in the area being located in a dark, dank, mosquito ridden location on the rocky and uncomfortable beach on Quadra’s eastern shore. Weather was socked in. Location was poor. Supplies were minimal and company was absent. What’s the appeal?
That she was poorly equipped, inadequately supplied and really minimally prepared in every way was obvious in the extreme. Glaring, actually. Think: bag lady with paddle. But she was also independent and clearly choosing to remain so. Carried herself with a kind of pride, actually. We asked again after her needs and hearing of none pressing, we bid her adieu and departed with a wave.
She was gone the next day.