I have been aware of Indian Point calling to me. It has been two weeks since I last photographed this little piece of forested and rocky-beached Indian Reserve and I need to experience the change from drought to rain that is finally happening now, well into Autumn. I have entered into a relationship with this place and feel its pull.
I walk uphill for a change, scrambling up rocky slopes through the once dry grass stems, now wet and flattened. I find the old logging road and follow it westward. Bright maple leaves still flutter in the breeze against the blue sky which seems especially brilliant after days of low grey cloud. The clouds drifting on the breeze and the brisk air brings all to life today. All is transitional, everything rippling, falling, moving on. The light flashes off the ocean waves far below, cast shadows are long, the shade dark. Such a change from the soft overcast light of my last visit.
I arrive at the water’s edge and begin my return via the shoreline. Small birds chirp deep in the salal undergrowth. A kingfisher chatters in the bay and an eagle screams somewhere above in the treetops. The sea breeze sends crisp little waves to bark upon the gravel beaches. Faded, ghostlike ocean-spray and alder leaves murmur. I hear the words of this place even as I wait for its hidden face to peek out at me.
I am surprised to find a young Japanese man standing in the deep shadows peering at a cedar and stop to see what he is doing. “Is this tree sacred to the Indians?” he asks. I shake my head, that would be too simple an answer. “But you feel it don’t you? This grove of dark trees?”I reply. We begin a conversation, a little stilted with his limited English, about Shinto in Japan, which luckily I know something about. What he really meant by his first question, it turns out, was more nuanced. What did Indians here in North America feel about nature, did they have special sites that were sacred to them? Did they share his Japanese cultural perceptions about people’s relationship with the natural world?
A hard question for a non Indian to answer even though I studied Anthropology in University or perhaps because I am aware of the complexity I am unwilling to give a simple answer. I say that I think that what is being felt here is that we are all one. There is no separation between that tree and me. He smiles and says that he never expected to have this kind of conversation in Canada!
I continue along the trail taking the kind of photographs I have been moving towards in the past months: hidden faces of nature that surface through the general mass of perception if my mind is tuned to the right station. I think about that recent conversation back in the dark grove and how perfectly timed it was for me. I think about that young man, aware perhaps for the first time that the sacred groves around Shinto temples are representatives of a world of other groves, of the old Druid groves of my own cultural heritage and that this awareness of unity with the natural world is the heritage of all of us. We all are descendants of hunting gathering peoples around the world and that is the natural form of awareness of peoples who live as a part of nature.