3.3M X 2M (10’10” X 6’5”) South Wall, 9752 Willow Street
Artist: Paul Ygartua
Painted in 2004.
Charlie Abbott arrived in Chemainus sometime in the 1970s (nobody knows exactly when or why), and wandered into the deep, green forest surrounding this small community where he spent the rest of his life.
Old and bent with age, Charlie lived alone in the woods. He came to appreciate and love the forest, its wild inhabitants, and the changing seasons. For the few people that knew of his existence, he was simply called “The Hermit”.
Through acres of forest wilderness, he created “The Hermit Trails”. They were a marvel of enterprise, endurance and unique splendour. Slowly and painfully, he created a garden beneath the canopy of giant maples and firs, carving paths through the woodland floor. Slabs of rock, large and small, were hauled and placed to form intricate walkways and steps. Every day, Charlie swept the paths and cleared the fallen debris from both winter snowfalls and autumn windstorms.
This place of Charlie Abbott’s rebirth, what he called “the last stop on my pilgrimage”, became a place of solace and peace for others as well. He shunned human contact and had no sense of ownership over his domain. “I can’t take it with me when I go”, he would say.
He saw himself as a simple caretaker, nourishing the ground from which he drew his strength. It was a task more suited to a younger man, but for the last decade of his life, Charlie Abbott buried his gnarled hands in the rich earth and released its beauty. He chose to dwell in the silence of the forest.
Charlie Abbott’s pilgrimage ended on April 14, 1989 when, at the age of 87, “The Hermit” of Chemainus died.