Canoe Rock beacon from Arbutus Point.
Caw, Caw ,Caw! The crows are perched up in the arbutus branches but they sound like they are in the tent with us. Another summer dawn, camping at Arbutus Point. The children will be up soon with this racket for sure, so I roll out and start bringing the campfire back to life. Some previous camper has built up a splendid hearth of sandstone rocks which gives a sense of permanence to our favourite camping spot. Funny to think though, that ‘our’ place is also the home of others before us this summer and of those who will come after when we have returned to Saltspring.
With the fire under the kettle to make our morning ‘cuppa’ I step down the low bank, hop over the drift logs gathered at the winter high tide line and onto the white shell beach. At this low tide a reef extends out into the channel, smooth slabs of brown sandstone sprinkled with white barnacles and blue-black mussels, but I turn down to the sea`s edge for a quick wake up splash. The water, even in mid summer, is very bracing! I give myself a shake and scan the horizon. Out in the channel is Canoe Rock with its familiar beacon, looking like a submarine, and beyond that is Moresby Island. The waters of the Salish Sea are cluttered with many islands; just in this one direction are Pender, Saturna, some smaller Canadian Islands, and the many humpbacked outlines of the American San Juans. Layer upon layer upon layer.
The kettle whistles and I retrace my steps over the logs and up the low bank of black dry soil speckled with clam shells. I carry Heather`s cup of tea to her in the tent. She will soon begin another busy day managing our children and their friends and all the meals, but just for this morning moment she gets to have her first cup in peace. When the tea is half down and sleep has definitely fled I venture a remark.
“You know that we are camping on an old Indian camp site? The ground the trees are growing in is an old midden, formed by maybe thousands of years of campers chucking away their breakfast, lunch and dinner wrappers. A layer of shells, fire ash and charcoal sprinkled with blackened hearthstones”.
“Yes, that`s the first thing I noticed when we came here two years ago. I like that. The continuity. I am cooking, running an open air home, fishing in the bay just as other women have done before me. I hope our girls will be able to do the same in their turn. If we raise them right, make this part of their lives, I`m sure they will, if not here, then some place they find of their own”.
That evening, with the dishes washed, I watch the beacon light on Canoe Rock send its guiding pattern of flashes out from mid channel. The children have had another busy day hiking, fishing and playing on the beach and they are now singing around the fire. The arbutus leaves rustle quietly overhead in the breeze, waves gently swish on the shell beach and somewhere out on the dark reef seals are noisily hoisting themselves out for the night. Stars circle way up in the dark sky just as they have always done for others here before us at Arbutus Point.