I had heard about them before, but had never seen one. Perhaps that was because of my sheltered life as a country girl living near a small town in Saskatchewan. I had grown up around people who were mostly a mix of Eastern European, Ukrainian, and Italian ancestries, as well as with Cree Indians. But as a girl in a relatively isolated area, I had never seen a "colored" person. In my life, they existed only on TV or in books.
Years later I moved to British Columbia and met the man who later became my husband. He introduced me to the musical world of Bob Marley and the Whalers, island rhythm, and reggae blues. Still, my exposure to the people playing the music was limited to record covers and the occasional televised concert. It was only when we went to Vancouver on a day trip that things changed.
We wandered around Granville Island observing wooden boats bobbing on the water, hippies, and street artists. We ate fresh seafood and searched for a shell-shaped night light that would make a useful souvenir. After going into several shops, someone suggested, "Why not try the shell shop?"
It was on the way to the shell shop I first heard it: The familiar sounds that had been etched in my mind by my musically inclined husband. Then I saw them, four of them, sitting by the dock as the water lapped in time to their music.
Four black musicians - two with drums, two with guitars - wearing wildly colored clothing. But it was the hair of the singer that truly blew me away, the tangled ropes that ran from his head to his chest. These were the dreadlocks I had heard so much about.
I wondered what they would be like to touch, but there was something too magical about them, and, of course, I dared not. While onlookers gathered and smiled, he sang of fightin' the bad mon, fightin' the society, mon.
Then it hit me. "Oh, my gosh!" I said, not knowing I was talking out loud. "It's a Rastafarian!"
My husband didn't speak but quickly guided me away until we were lost in the crowd.
The singer smiled but otherwise acted as though he hadn't heard, and carried on with the music. I wondered what he would have done if I had stayed. But my husband was embarrassed by what he deemed a racist blunder on my part, although I certainly hadn't meant it that way.
Later, I wondered if he secretly wished he had never introduced me to his tales of Jamaica and his Bob Marley albums.