Monday, January 26, 2009

THE WEST COAST. Waves and Particles.

                              Long Beach.

Like Russian dolls within dolls, here on the West Coast of Canada we have multiples. Saltspring Island has a west coast, as does the mainland to the east of us across the Strait of Georgia. When we say “The West Coast” however, we mean that ultimate part of Vancouver Island that dips it`s mountains into the open Pacific Ocean. Beyond, is nothing but salt water and eventually, Japan.
                             West Coast Sunrise.

In the Fall, Heather and I drive across ‘the big Island’ to Long Beach. We are to spend a while with my daughter Elaine and her family and are very lucky with the weather: sunny, splendid days. The first morning we watch the dawn slowly paint the bay before us with pearly grey light and then, as the sun breaches the horizon, a burst of colour flashes on to a red sailboat and paints the hills behind in three dimensions.

                           The horizon.
In the afternoon we walk a forest trail that winds along the outer coast. Rocky points, narrow fern draped defiles, stunted and wind tossed evergreens shaped by Pacific gales. The surf flashes white on black rocks. Heather and I find our eyes drawn to the long, wave tossed curve of the western horizon. It is now seven years since someone standing in this spot could have caught a glimpse of our schooner Shiriri with her gaff sails just small dancing dots on the horizon as we sailed home from Australia. We pause several times on the walk to scan the horizon. Even now this automatic act is still branded into us. That which, when we first sailed along this coast spoke of fear of the unknown, is now a powerful reality we have become strengthened by and built into our lives.

Later, at sunset, I walk a trail beside the Coast Guard Station and Lighthouse at Ucluelet. The light in the tower sends it`s code of flashes out toward the western horizon even as the setting sun nicks the sea`s edge. Science tells us that the sun`s energy rolls toward us both as waves and as particles in another kind of code that is constantly recreating the reality I see around me. If I also choose to imagine the sun as a celestial being who dips below the edge of the earth and circles around to bring dawn and the miracle of light to a new day is that really anymore improbable for my everyday senses to grasp? I keep both versions balanced in my mind as darkness finds me still stumbling alone on the rocky shore snapping last photos of black rocky outcrops, a flashing lighthouse, and the Evening Star`s reflection in a tidal pool, backed by the afterglow of a vanished sunset.
                              Sunset and Evening Star.

Another afternoon we walk the wide sands of Long Beach as the Pacific swells send surf rolling shoreward to make foamy fans upon the beach. The tide is far out now and the mist from the surf blows across the wide, miles-long sandy beach. Our granddaughter Katie is with us as we strain to keep her parents in sight as they take a well earned break to play far out in the surf. Such a sturdy little person: how naturally she trots across the hard sand and stops to examine an interesting shell or piece of seaweed. What natural first steps into this very large, beautiful, constantly changing, windswept word.

                         Like, Far Out!

I climb a rocky islet set in the beach and find three young men sharing a sandwich lunch and gazing out to sea. No conversation, just rapt attention to the waves rolling endlessly toward them. They find no words to encompass this pattern of endless conversion of ocean waves into surf, this immense vista on the edge of the earth. They don`t need words right now: they just need to feel it.

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