Newcomer stories: “This is home”

Meet newcomer Peg Ainsley, formerly of Alberta and recently of Duncan

Peg Ainsley made the move to Duncan last year because it felt warm and inviting. She’s not the only one. The Cowichan region is growing, and it’s thanks to the fact that people keep moving here. Last year, more than 5,000 new people came to the area, and only about 3,600 left.

In order to better understand where our community is headed, The Discourse Cowichan is looking into who is moving here and why. Each week, as part of our New in Town series we are going to introduce you to a recent arrival to our ever-changing valley. Today, we’ll get to know Peg, a writer and writing coach who has finally found home.

When did you move to Cowichan and where did you move from?

“I arrived August 1, 2018 from just south of Calgary, and did a house sit for my friend’s property in Shawnigan Lake. Eight year prior, I left Victoria after 12 years there. I was so pleased to be back on the Island, and once I was on this side of the Malahat, I wanted to stay. It was easy to meet and make friends, I liked the business community and the community spirit in general.”

Why did you decide to move to Duncan?

“Driving into Duncan from Shawnigan Lake, I noticed it is almost always 10 degrees warmer in Duncan. It’s in this great little valley, and away from the cooling effects of the ocean. One day I had to buy a new shirt as I was dressed uncomfortably warm. I love the downtown because I enjoy poking around little stores, second-hand stores, stopping for coffee, etc. When my term at the mountain house was over, I had already decided to move into Duncan. Getting a rental is tricky, but I managed to come in the back door of one property management group. I have a spacious suite with a great view facing west, and I had the best time fixing up old pieces that I bought on the Cowichan Valley used sites. I brought the final bits of my property that I had left in Alberta in September 2019, and now I’m settled for good.”

So, what do you think so far?

“In the past three months in particular, since settling into my apartment, I can report being happy and content for the first time ever, other than when relaxing in a tropical climate. This is home.”

“I discovered Collective Space and held a fun writing class there over the summer. I loved that Duncan hosts the 39 Days of July, and think it’s a wonderful thing to have so much musical talent around. I am a blues fan, and there are many blues artists in the valley, and I’m slowly getting to visit the venues where they play. I enjoy the jazz at the Osborne Bay Pub in Crofton as well. The fact that the Cowichan Community Centre offers so much, including the Elder College, also makes this a great place to be.”

Writing has kept Peg Ainsley busy since moving to the Cowichan Valley. <b>Jenny Holden/The Discourse Cowichan</b>
Writing has kept Peg Ainsley busy since moving to the Cowichan Valley. Jenny Holden/The Discourse Cowichan

How has the move to Duncan affected your work life?

“It seems that this valley lies on a creative meridian. Every writer has one project that needs to be written. Since my arrival, I have completed and published that project — Love Beyond Reason, and placed it into the library system as well as a local bookstore. It had been over 20 years in the making. I have also given talks about its key subject matter — domestic safety, and volunteered at women’s support organizations here, as well as in Victoria and Nanaimo. I’ve given creative writing classes, and look forward to becoming part of the Elder College curriculum. I’m proud of the fact that my coaching clientele now includes local writers. I am part of a small private writers group and the members there are helping me through my first fictional novel. Because of that involvement, it looks like it will be ready in the spring.”

What do you wish you had known, prior to your move, about your new community?

“I wish I had known there was such a tight rental market. I would have made a more strategic approach to acquiring housing, and I wish I had known there was a temp agency serving the Cowichan Valley. I would have connected with them sooner in order to attain employment.”

“When I lived in Victoria, Duncan seemed like a magical, earthy place where people grew their own vegetables, downtown shops were interesting and full of friendly, chatty staff, and the blues music scene was unbeatable! Living here now, I know that is all true, but I have also found state-of-the-art services, medical offices, labs of all kinds and recreation facilities galore!”

What are some things that you think newcomers to the City of Duncan need to know before they move? 

“Don’t move anything here from afar that doesn’t have an emotional connection for you. This is the best place I have ever found to furnish and decorate with second-hand items from furniture to artwork, coffee tables and lamps, etc. A huge moving bill is just not necessary. Get something funky and new to you for your new Duncan digs! Have fun with it.”

“Be ready to talk with anyone, about anything, at any time. Whether you’re shopping at a big box store or attending a concert, you will find people willing and wanting to chat with you. Prepare to be friendly, and befriended. Be willing to stop on the street and listen to a random stranger play the piano. If you’re in a hurry, don’t take your car. It’s often busy downtown and although there is plenty of parking, it does seem to get used up — no matter what day it is, or what time of day it is! Join the specialty Facebook groups. There are plenty of connections to be made there, and information about everything from where to find someone who teaches guitar to who will till your garden. Never be afraid to ask for the assistance you need. And always visit the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.”

Thanks and welcome Peg! For any of our readers who are new to the region and would like to share your story, please drop me a line at [end]


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