Tuesday, November 30, 2010
At the head of the bay I stop to photograph the massive arbutus trees that arc over the salal covered bank and rocky shore. The sun`s rays are still with me, angling through the last of Autumn`s leaves and setting them alight. This is like some great cathedral with its high timbered roof, its leafy stained glass windows and the sea lapping at the shore which is the mystery itself ebbing and flowing with the moon.
I walk toward the farm buildings and my road home along the rough path at the foot of the high cliff I stood upon a couple of hours ago. The walk today has seemed like an eternity, a life time at least, moving so slowly through the new landscape of the upper forest, the low-tide waves of sandstone shores and the memory of the spirit from the coastline I have just left.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I have spent a lot of time this summer and fall dutifully doing what does not come easily to me, - maintaining: rebuilding and cleaning up around our property. It seems that the thirty-five year mark is the point that all things fall apart. Now that all is bright and shiny again and ready for the winter rains it is time to take myself for some exercise, some re-creation, along the shores and trails of our island. Fall is a lovely time of year as nature itself strips down for winter action. Change is in the air!
One day I stroll along the familiar trail at Indian Point, stopping to re-photograph trees and shorelines I have photographed before. A different mind set, different angle of sun and misty air produces all new and interesting images. The next day I drive further to Ruckle Park and walk down across the valley, past the farm buildings and stop before I take the normal right turn down to the bay. Above me looms a rocky cliff half hidden in the trees. In all the years I worked here as a Park Ranger I never climbed up there. The whole central rocky core of my usual coastline circuit is terra incognita to me. Time for a change!
I am walking on my own because Heather is away for a few days looking after grandchildren. No one knows my trip plans, and indeed I didn`t know I was leaving the beaten path until just now. I have no cell phone if I should need help. Do I dare or not? My life experience gives the answer: yes, but with caution! At first I take a faint trail that fades to a wisp of a deer track as it winds up the slope behind the cliffs. Big firs, grassy meadows. As I climb I am thinking that I will simply find the top of the massif and then follow the path back to the road again, Simple, safe.
This is exciting, discovering new landscape, and eventually I emerge onto a large grassy hilltop, the highest edge of which forms the steep cliffs that I have seen all these years from the valley below. I gaze my fill and then cannot resist looking to see if the sketchy trail picks up again on the far side of the meadow. I look carefully over my shoulder to set my return path in my memory, and wander off down the slope toward the morning sun that indicates south-south-east and gives a slowly shifting reference point for direction finding. Way down there I find some yellow survey tape fluttering from some branches and beyond, deeper in the tangle of vegetation, is another. A marked trail or a false lead?
There is a faint and intermittent trail beneath the tape markers that trends toward the sun and so off I go ducking under Garry oaks and fallen trees. What I worry a little about is breaking a leg or twisting an ankle and needing to drag myself out of here. It is not going to happen but it doesn`t hurt to proceed with caution. After half an hour of following the marker tapes through masses of vegetation and mossy rock outcrops I have dropped altitude and can occasionally glimpse the sea ahead. Soon I am stepping out from the dark forest into the grassy and familiar camping fields beside the sea.
My little adventure has worked out fine, but how long is it since I have stepped off the beaten track? Once, while we were living the sailing life, there was no track and life was all discovery. Time, high time, to sniff some of that heady aroma of freedom again.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Easing down the narrow lane between boats tied two deep on the floats of the local dock takes some concentration this morning, but this is the forth time recently that Safari Kati has been out and all the old boating skills are seeping back into me. It is seven years since we sailed home in our big schooner Shiriri, five since she sold, and this new boat has been in a long refit to bring her back from an equally long period of neglect. She is not completely finished yet, but it is time to go sailing and get our confidence back!
Once out from behind the breakwater and into Ganges Harbour I raise the sails of our little 25` folkboat and hoist the outboard engine out of the water. Heather is aboard for the first time and is struggling a little with the tiller. Somehow it does not work quite the same as the wheel steering she was once so familiar with. The light northerly breeze wafts us slowly out of the harbour and I am glad for such a gentle re-introduction to boating for my wife. After arriving alive after a long difficult voyage home from Australia she has shown no interest in returning to the sea until now and I want this to be a happy experience for her. Going sailing alone is ok, but together is a whole lot nicer!The wind dies behind an island, picks up a little in the outer reaches of the harbour and then drops again in the wind-shadow of Scott Point. Our outboard engine pushes us against the ebb current in Navy Channel, past Long Harbour and into a long bay on Prevost Island where we anchor and row ashore in the inflatable tender. We explore an old orchard, gather some apples and walk the trails until it is time to head home.
|At anchor in Lyle Bay. Prevost Island|
Once back in Ganges Harbour the afternoon sea breeze is kicking up whitecaps and Safari Kati heels a little more, fills her sails roundly and for the first time we hear her begin to speak. “Swoosh, aaaah”, she says as she rocks gently and presses the waves apart. Heather and I smile to hear this sweet voice of our new friend who has sat mute and abandoned for so many years.
Friday, November 12, 2010
This autumn festival is the one time of year when we put aside our civilized veneer and step into an ancient European mind set. The night of witches and goblins and visits of the dead. Remarkable in our modern world, and yet obviously necessary or people would not go to such trouble. What was not so long ago simply a children`s dress-up evening is now full of adults in full Halloween garb. Scary, when you think about it, but perhaps as we all become more domesticated in our normal lives we need more extreme expressions of wildness and this old Celtic festival provides for that.
At the end of a dark rainy trail through the woods, lit fitfully by jack-o-lanterns and populated by ghouls and goblins that scream and grab at us as we pass, (with our little grandchildren in tow, this must be worth a few nightmares at least), is a bright bonfire with crowds of costumed lost souls drinking hot chocolate to fortify their ephemeral bodies against the Autumn chill. Leaves blow past with the raindrops, the flames flicker and sparks fly in the smoke.
In this little Vancouver Island community of Errington a lot of folks have worked hard to organize this yearly event and, judging from the many cars and people, many more have arrived to participate in it. This may be a clue to the popularity of this modern Halloween and of the original festivals held at the beginning of winter in Europe long ago. Before the darkness, cold, and snow arrives, before the ice demons stick their frozen fingers into us, our communities come together, gather around a big fire and prance around in the guise of those demons that inhabit hot places. One really good night of heat and light and banshee wails should last us until the midwinter festival when the nights will have already begun to shorten and the sun`s warmth is promised to return.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Later, as I do a sweep through the images that I have collected, I find one that seems to speak to a larger question about the arts. Clara is about to blow out her candles but one is smoking badly and Tim, her dad, reaches over and snuffs it out. It will be relit and the ceremony will continue, but the moment of surprise that I have captured, the expression, the body language, while not up to old masters standards, sets me to thinking about all those paintings that grace the walls of museums and are our legacy from the creative people of the past.
What my image has in common with the great ones, the Caravaggios and Rembrandts, is the dramatic moment; the point of change when something unexpected steps into her life. Those great artists have captured that point of revelation in a much more profound way and have expressed it in paint or stone. An amazing leap of understanding for human beings to make. Yesterday there was an overlap of sorts when I listened on the radio to the creation of another saint by the Roman Catholic Church. The man in question, Brother Andre, had spent his life as a simple usher in a large church in eastern Canada and over a lifetime had developed a reputation for miraculously healing the sick and also for giving people the grace to accept what could not be cured. He incorporated the transcendent which, like lightening, passed through him into those that suffered. And the artists who wrought those images that touch us today long after their own lifetimes, what was it that worked in their lives? How was it that, despite often personally difficult and less that stellar personal lives, they were able to achieve such imagery, the tipping point in people`s lives?