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  • In a marshy estuary, a man walking the opposite direction stops to make conversation as I approach. “Where are you going?,” he asks, leaning against the plywood bridge that escorts the trail over the water. He’s got heavy-duty headphones around his neck that look like construction earmuffs.

    “Mexico,” I reply, for the very first time. It sounds absurd to hear it out loud. I’m walking to Mexico.

    The man doesn’t miss a beat. “You’re going the wrong way!”, he says. I put down my pack and withdraw my water bottle, not quite sure how to answer.

    He takes my gesture as an invitation to start conversation. “You know, I’ve lived here for 30 years. I moved out from Toronto after serving in the military. I’ve lived all over, and Vancouver Island is the jewel of the country.” He delivers his verdict confidently. His black sweatshirt, a size too big, is emblazoned with red embroidered letters that spell out “CANADA”. With long hockey hair poking out from beneath a khaki ball cap, he looks like Joe Canuck, a guy straight out of a beer commercial.

    “Yes, it’s beautiful here.”

    “Do you believe this was created or evolved?” He waves his hand across the wetlands dramatically.

    I smile wearily, my body aching from 15 miles of walking on my first day. “Well, it was created, one way or another. I don’t think I’m qualified to say how it all happened.”

    He looks at me and blinks twice. Soon, he’s deep into a story about a professor at a university in Eastern Canada, something to do with research on ancient granite that's uncovered holes in the evolutionary story. I watch his lips punctuate each word definitively. I’m aware he’s not seeking my perspective.

    Suddenly, he looks deeply at me. “How old do you think I am?”, he asks.

    “I don’t know. 42?”

    “I’m 52. My love for God and his son Jesus Christ has kept me young.” He smiles. “I think that we’re in the end of days, you know. We have no more than 10 or 15 years before massive nuclear war or global meltdown. But I love Jesus Christ. I’ll be OK. ” He relays this pronouncement punctually, unemotionally.

    I pick up my bag and we begin walking in step along the wooden bridge. Looking forward, I begin to mention something about the Global Financial Crisis, but when I turn to my side, he’s no longer there.

    Ten yards back, he’s leaning on the edge of the bridge, looking over the wetlands. ”Have a good walk,” he yells after me. “I’m here to watch the ducks.”
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