‘Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.’ Henry David Thoreau.
We are bathed in sweat as we zig zag up the forested slopes of Mt. Maxwell. It has been a hot day in the midst of a heat wave and we have planned this late hike in the hopes of some evening coolness. We pass the enormous boulder field and climb on up into the rocky dry-grass and oak mountainside and it`s fabulous view of the bay below us and the receding layer upon layer of blue hills and mountains on Vancouver Island. From a shady spot we watch the sun edge down to the horizon. There is something solemn about watching a sunset: somehow it calls for an acknowledgment. Vale, Vale, we should be calling to mark it`s passing.
I have a strong sense of de-ja vu : the heat, the sense of farewell on the high mountainside, are ringing bells of a tropical Samoan mountainside and the grave of Robert Louis Stevenson that we visited while sailing across the Pacific. This weird little feeling of having been here before is explainable, but the experience I had on Mt. Vaia was of having the curtains of perception yanked wide open for a moment. One of those flashes we all get once in a while that can change the way we understand the world.
Stevenson`s well known words were on the sides of the concrete tomb and there was a strong sense of his presence in the air.
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be:
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
The trade wind rushed noisily through the tropical trees on that high shoulder of the mountain, dove on down the hillside, skipped over our schooner tucked into the bay far below and rejoined the main flow that flecked the ocean with white caps to the horizon and beyond. There was a moment of eternity in this blend of poetry and the voice in the wind that spoke of timelessness, continuity and of how limited is our usual perspective of death as a finality. Eternity is a hard idea to grasp at the best of times but for this brief while I felt it. His words that spoke of being home took on new meaning in this setting: home, is this context was not the tomb beside us on the hillside but in the spirit of the wind that rushed through the branches and rejoined the main as it rippled the ocean far below. Out there were a million white crests of foam, created by the wind, that for a moment rushed down the face of waves before returning back into water: a moment of realization, of dancing in the sunlight and then home again until the next wave brought them flashing back again. The setting, the wind, the ocean, all referencing eternity.
We leave Mount Maxwell, slithering down the dusty trail into the gathering dusk pooling in the valley below and walk out onto the Burgoyne Bay wharf in the afterglow of sunset. Lights are twinkling in the community of Maple Bay across the water as stars gradually fill the sky. The quarter moon sets behind the flanks of Mt. Tuam. Here too we feel the echo of that moment at Stevenson`s grave. Even as the sun`s light fades, the stars are flashing like wave crests on the face of a greater sea. And, there is yet more day to dawn.