2:2 — The Hermit Mural

Write a short story (600 – 1000 words max) that describes your sense of home and the values and stories that you use to connect yourself to your home and respond to all comments on your blog. 

I grew up in a small area outside of a small town.  There are many things and stories that are typical of a small town, but I like to think mine has a unique feature: murals.  We tell our town’s history and our community on the walls of our buildings with paintings.  Like anyone surrounded by stories growing up, I have a favorite, the mural displaying part of Charlie Abbott’s story, and the legacy he left behind for his community.

The Hermit, Mural #36 by Paul YgartuaThe image to the left is the mural in my town called “The Hermit,”  and it was true that not many referred to Charlie by name then, or now.  When I was younger, I liked this mural most for the feelings of peace and serenity every time I looked at it…and also for the powerful story behind it.

For a little background, Charlie Abbott came to my home town in his later years of life.  He was a homeless alcoholic, so the story goes, and my town was strange territory to him. He settled into a nearby forest by himself and generally shied away from human contact.  No one knows why he chose my hometown to settle his wanderings, but all residents know of the gift he gave us: The Hermit Trails.

In the 1970s, bent with age and content with solitude, Charlie worked hard and silently to devote the rest of his life to creating, maintaining and preserving his trails.  He made simple benches, cut pathways and lined his trails with painstakingly chosen stones.  Everyday he swept the paths, and when others eventually asked if they could walk the peaceful paths, Charlie was quick to point out that the land wasn’t his, he just considered himself to be a caretaker.  True to his words, Charlie cared for the trails until his death in the late 80s, and now the town has taken up the preservation of his final days’ work, going so far as to buy up the land to save it from development.

When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the devotion it took for an elderly man to create and care for 3.5 acres of trails.  I didn’t appreciate the sense of community knowing my town stepped up to preserve the man’s work, though none of them knew him and it wasn’t his land to carve into.  I now work in a museum during the summers, where we strive to preserve the history of logging in British Columbia.  My town started as a logging community, and my job has helped me to become interested in and connect with my own history and town.  This is how I came to appreciate the effort and love that “The Hermit” of Chemainus gave to the place he called home.  He gave to the community he was a part of without seeking acknowledgement, and created a beautiful place for families and children to fell safe and admire his hard work and perseverance.  In my town, “The Hermit Trails” are not just a place of beauty and peace, but connection.  Walking the paths or viewing the murals tells not only residents, but any visitors, our proud history, and how we stand with each other and work together to create what we have.

Works Cited

BC Forest Discovery Centre.  BC Forest Discovery Centre, n.d. Web. 6 June 2016.

MuralTown.  Chemainus Festival of Murals Society, n.d. Web.  6 June 2016.

Ygartua, Paul.  “The Hermit.” Image of painting.  2004.  Web.  6 June 2016.


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