Footprints are sometimes there even though we can’t see them. Those who have come before tread on the grounds, leaving behind a little something of themselves. For those who are acute these ghostly outlines of the imprints are not lost forever, rather they are as evident and as fresh as the day they were left. As a photographer certain scenes call to us, invite us to seek beyond that which is obvious and to find the stories that lie just beneath the veneer. Such is the Old Stone Butter Church to me.
As we’ve mentioned previously, Vancouver Island does not get a lot of snow over the course of our winter. When it does come the entire valley takes on a different feel, but only for a very brief time. The snow melts quickly, and with that life returns to normal. The scenes are fleeting and pure only for the briefest of moments, and if you are trying to capture great images the window of opportunity is very short. This past weekend we were hit with such a snow event and the temperatures lingered well below the freezing mark. We knew we only had a few hours to get up to the church perched atop Comiaken Hill to photograph pure scenes with no footprints.
At least no footprints that were obvious.
A quick visit to our online gallery reveals many photographs of the church. For those with a passing interest this might seem redundant, like we’ve created a record that skips. But for those who like to look deeper, we find scenes that take on unique personalities entirely dependent on the time of year and the natural light. And thus we begin to understand why we are called back to this place time and time again. It’s my muse.
As discussed in our previous post “Old Stone Butter Church“, the church was constructed in 1870 and only saw service for a very short time.
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Such a incredible place, it’s even been featured on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” who referred to it as “The church of no services…in which no congregation has ever gathered.” While not entirely true, the church was in service for only 10 years before it was abandoned for a newer location in the valley. Ripley’s goes on to say “the Indians will not go near (it) because all those who actually built it died mysteriously.” Again, these are stories woven to add to the fabric of the tale, but the words resonate as you stand on the grounds taking in the incredible energies that swirl around.
Fabulous details on the story behind Old Stone Butter Church can be found at “Myths and Legends of the Cowichan Indian People – Coast Salish history“.
Clearly the story of the Old Stone Butter Church just started after the last service was conducted.
What once was a doorway or a window is now just a frame to the outside world. These scenes feed the artist deep within me, always looking for natural tension and a story in a single frame. We’ve said it before and it bears saying again… the silence is deafening up here. The only sound that we heard was the crunching of our footsteps in the frozen snow and the occasional expression of amazement as we took in the experience.
As we turn to leave once again, I begin to look forward to our next visit. We look out over Comiaken Hill down into Cowichan Bay below and find ourselves in a state of wonder. A perfect blend of history and the contemporary come together in the place that may be forgotten to many, but certainly is not to us.
A final glance at Mount Tzouhalem as we turn to head back to our car… the skies open just at that moment to let a sliver of sunlight cut across the majestic mountain, highlighting the intrinsic beauty of the mighty rock formation under a light dusting of pure white snow.
Yes, we’ve been here many times before, but with each visit comes a new discovery. These experiences are tangible and indelible, leaving a mark upon us that can never be replicated or removed. What will we find on our next visit?