Shortlisted for the 2016 Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize.
Tod Inlet has been a place of refuge for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, but few are aware of its history. This tiny fjord, less than a half hour from downtown Victoria, is part of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park and is accessed by a forested path beside Tod Creek. For centuries it was the home of the WSÁNEc (Saanich) people, providing everything for their spiritual and material sustenance. In the early part of the twentieth century a small company town grew on its shores. Houses, a railway, a clay mill, a factory and a dock for steamships were built for the Vancouver Portland Cement Company. When the cement company had exhausted the limestone quarries, Jennie Butchart began her ambitious gardening project, Butchart Gardens. Developers made plans for marinas, golf courses and hotels to be built on this quiet inlet, but local citizens, environmentalists, scientists and First Nations people fought back.
Almost all the buildings have been demolished, but concrete and iron are not easily disposed of, and reminders of the past confront the walker everywhere: shell middens spill into the sea, fruit trees and garden flowers mingle with indigenous plants, and century-old industrial relics litter the creek, the forest and the Inlet. But despite the ravages of the past century, Tod Inlet retains a spirit of peace and renewal. In other environments this clash of the man-made with the natural can create an unsettling mix. Here, time has allowed nature to begin the healing process and has morphed into a present that speaks softly of its past.
Gwen Curry takes us on her walks down to the Inlet. Her beautiful photographs capture the spirit of present-day Tod Inlet, while her sensitive prose gives us glimpses into the Inlet’s natural, industrial and First Nations history.
About the author
Gwen Curry is an artist/writer and a former professor in the visual arts department at the University of Victoria. She is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy and her work is in many private and public collections. Her first book, Tod Inlet: A Healing Place, was shortlisted for the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize for B.C. literature. In it, her photographs and writing detail her walks to Tod Inlet and its fascinating history. Gwen has travelled widely but finds nothing more exciting than exploring the rugged coast of British Columbia. She has visited Malcolm Island and the surrounding area many times in the past decade and appreciates what a beautiful yet vulnerable place it is. Her most recent book (with photographer Daniel Hillert) is Converging Waters: The Beauty and Challenges of the Broughton Archipelago. Gwen Curry lives in Brentwood Bay (Vancouver Island), British Columbia.