Sunday, November 28, 2010

Finding a new path. 2 - the shore

From the forest`s shade I keep walking straight ahead down the sun`s path, step across drift logs at the high tide mark and then down across sandstone slopes to the shining sea. Although it is a calm and sunny day the water rolls and crashes almost continually because all the ferry traffic between southern Vancouver Island and the mainland of BC must go around this point trailing their wakes behind them. It is low tide and where I am standing will be well over my head in a few hours, but in the meantime what a great and unusual perspective for my camera and me! I walk up and down big sandstone waves, stepping carefully over slippery seaweedy and wet patches. The heavy rains of last week have started little seeps that drip from the thin grassy soils above and run in braided runnels to the sea. They shine like silver wires.

There are so many interesting images; the old weathered grey logs and stumps that were stranded here over fifty years ago in a mighty storm, the vivid green of seaweeds welded tightly to the crevices in the bank, the trunk of a mighty Garry oak that fell one calm night while I was park ranger here and the wrinkled faces of the waves in the rocks. This is like a miniature Grand Canyon and my eye and camera are helicopters zooming along looking for interesting shots.

I reach the southern point, am forced by the deep sharp edged side canyons to step back up onto ‘dry land’ for a while and then back down to the water`s edge I go. The steep slopes here are clothed in low scrubby oaks that cling to the rock faces, and eventually I run out of sea shore and must climb with their help back up to the familiar trail above. This is familiar all right and very beautiful with its arbutus, firs and oaks. Somewhere, deep in the forest and up those sandstone slopes above me, must be the trail I was following down to the camping area. If I had become lost up there and slowed down I would have followed the sun`s arc and ended up sliding down to here.

This is holy ground for me. I remember guiding a group of Japanese High school children along this way on a nature walk. I had already had to hold them back from rushing at deer with their cameras held out in front of them and now they were talking loudly among themselves oblivious to the world around them. It felt more than a little strange for me, a Canadian, to stop them at a cliff edge and ask for silence. “Listen to the waves, the wind in the trees, the ravens and the seagulls calling. This is the voice of this land. If you can hear it with respect, it will respect you. You and it are not unrelated.” Surely there must be some Zen or Shinto in this, some point that overlaps their own cultural ways so they can understand that this foreign shore is no less sacred and due some honour than their own holy mountains and groves.


Ernst Göran Westlund said...

Once you must show me this place and tell me more about your life as park ranger!

Bill said...

Sure, sounds good. How much of this is in the landscape and how much is within me?
I`ve been thinking about my super caution in the first segment, walking through the woods and the sense of freedom I got from stepping off the 'straight and narrow'. I recognize now that when sailing the big ocean I became an adrenaline junkie - all that danger also gave a heightened sense of being alive. By tapping back, however so gently, into that awareness of danger I was also super aware while making photos that day and experiencing the walk as something beyond the usual plod.