Picture, if you will, a sleepy fishing village lost amidst the tall grasses and trees of the Fraser River estuary. The houses there stand on stilts or float on the water next to their moored boats; each one a unique patchwork of the old, the homespun, and the odd.
At first it sounds like a movie set, or the home of domestic swamp pirates. In actual fact, it’s a settlement founded in the late 19th century by Finnish immigrants looking to escape the oppression of Russian occupation back home; here now to carve out a new life for themselves as farmers and fishermen on the west coast of Canada.
Some of the houses there are home to the descendants of the original settlers to this day. Others mere shells rotting in the swamp. As if the whole village wasn’t enchanting enough on its own, the residents have taken to decorating them with wild skulls, folk art, old bicycles and other junky oddments.
Expect to see tin-can robots, and funny signs painted on bits of shingle if ever you decide to pay it a visit (and yes, you should).
I’ve visited Finn Slough a few times now, and I think it took me at least two visits before I gathered up the courage to cross the very wobbly and weathered bridge that takes you across the water to the other side of the village.
The first time I stepped on the bridge I was sure it wasn’t meant to be functional; that it was purely decorative, or otherwise the bones of something from another generation that hadn’t been totally reclaimed by the slough yet. So I turned back.
The second time I slowly stepped across, convinced each board would snap under my feet, or that my weight would shake the whole structure into a sideways collapse. After a heart-stopping series of baby-steps, I made it to the other side to find rough boardwalks disappearing into the scrub.
I had hoped to take a closer look at “Dinner Plate Island School”, but all routes along the on the other side of the bridge were blocked off with signage reminding us dumb tourists that this was actually a place where people live and isn’t, in fact, an outdoor museum thank you very much indeed.
That was really unfortunate. There was nowhere to go now but back across the wobbly bridge.
Since travel hasn’t really been in the cards for me as of late, I’ve decided I’d occupy the long dark hours of winter with catching up on some landscape paintings from my previous adventures. This first one is of Finn Slough as I encountered it one autumn evening in full sunset blaze.
I plan on doing a few others from this neck of the woods at some point.