Tuesday, 25 June 2013


I am staying at a hotel in Abbotsford today. For the first time in my life, I am a visitor here, seeing this city from a completely different view, that of a transient and not a resident. This is where I lived from 1975 to 2011, although some would say I barely resided here in the last few years, spending long amounts of time working in places like Fort McMurray and Calgary, or off on speaking engagements around Canada, the US, Europe, and so on.

Driving into Abbotsford was tough for me yesterday. It was rainy, dreary, and depressing, the way a city can be when the branches are soaked and hang too low over the streets, when low clouds hide the sun, blotting out any hope of a spirit lifting show of light and warmth. It is a different place than the small town I came to as a young man. It is a different place than the village where my wife was born. Once it was a town where you knew your neighbours, where people talked on the street, where every shop and restaurant held customers who you knew, whose children you knew, whose parents you knew.

Now it is a big city, filled with strangers and violence. Just yesterday in Abbotsford there was another, yes another, gang-land shooting on the streets, at 5:00 PM right across the street from my hotel, in an open parking lot filled with shoppers. In the restaurant last night there was nothing but strange faces and people with whom I could not relate. The streets were crowded with traffic, going to and from mall after mall with giant international chain stores.

I remember when there was only one streetlight in town. I remember when the mall was so new it wasn't even complete. I remember when the main drag was half populated by small buildings and shops, and half populated by houses and small industrial yards. Even the hotel where I am staying has a memory. I remember when this site, just a half block from the main street, was a chicken farm with a rickety old barn and and even older house. I remember the man who owned it. I remember the old hospital where my wife was born, where all of our children were born, some in the same room as her.

This used to be a place for family, community, friends. This used to be place where you could live, learn, make a mistake and grow past it without some gangster with a gun shooting at you. This once was a place where I fell in love, raised a family and set down roots. This once was a place where generosity was normal and where concern for others was a part of the community values.

Now it is just a wet, busy, dark and dangerous suburb of Surrey. It's not even part of Vancouver; it has no ocean and even less soul.


  1. In many ways Abbotsford remains a lovely city and there are many people here I still call friend. The challenge is that growth and change will always bring trouble and difficulty. They go hand in hand. Add to that the dreary weather and how much I don't want to be in my present situation here in Abbotsford, and it is all a not pretty picture.