This picture arrived in my email inbox from Victoria, B.C. on one of those dreadful when-will-spring-arrive mornings. For a minute or so after it landed, I brooded no longer. I imagined drifting with the deer on ocean air among the burial markers…
Victoria used to be a ferry ride away for me but Toronto is now my home. We have a tiny ferry across the harbour to the Toronto Island, but it’s rare to catch deer–although not impossible!
A few years ago there was a single, lonely doe lost among the Bay Street bank towers. It’s unclear where she came from. But in front of a sizeable urban crowd loaded down with iPhone cameras, city police cordoned off an area, released the SWAT team, tasered the animal and carted her away. So Toronto is not completely deer-less.
But these deer resting upon tombstones at the Ross Bay cemetery in Victoria, arguably the most historic cemetery in Western Canada, begs for a wholly different kind of reflection, one I so enjoy having that I’ve saved the image forevermore to my desktop and now I’m sharing it with you.
My friend Chris Gainor sent me this photograph. His house rests on the edge of the cemetery and so his neighbours include many pioneers of B.C. and Victoria, several B.C. premiers, and one of the Fathers of Confederation.
“Emily Carr is probably the most famous person buried there,” wrote Chris, “On many occasions I’ve pointed tourists from as far away from Japan to it. People often leave flowers, pine cones and other things on her grave.”
Up the block and over a few markers from Emily is Nellie Cashman.
In 1898, Cashman left Arizona to join the Klondike Gold Rush. She became known as the “Angel of Cassiar,” for taking charge of a six-man search party and rescuing miners hit by an avalanche in B.C.’s Cassiar Mountains.
“After 77 days of unfriendly weather, Cashman and her party located the sick men…some estimates credit Cashman with saving the lives of as many as 75 men.” (wiki)
Later in her life, she returned to the U.S. and settled in Tombstone, Arizona and kept a saloon. She died in 1925 and returned to be close to Emily, whom she probably would have liked, up the lane at Ross Bay .
“The cemetery lies between our neighbourhood and Ross Bay in the Strait of Juan de Fuca,” wrote Chris. “I often walk through there, and that’s what I was doing yesterday when I got that photo of the deer.”