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Serenity – or (back to) Nature

December 17, 2009

The other day I went for a walk out to Tonquin Beach. A five-minute walk from my doorstep takes me to the start of the trail. From there, I meander another 5 minutes through the rainforest and I am on the beach…

It is a soft grey evening (yes, this time of year, 4pm is evening…).  Tonquin is a small beach, but the tide is low, so the beach is nearly as long as it gets, maybe 400 or 500 m?  I touch the rock at the south end with my rubber boot, as is the custom.  The winter surf curls beside me and I turn and now follow the tideline towards the north end.  The sky is grey. The sun setting over the open ocean touches the cloud-bottoms with hints of peach and rose.

I take a deep breath of cool salt air.  I exhale slowly, then focus on breathing steadily, deliberately: in with the good, out with the bad, letting go of thoughts of deadlines, overdue obligations, mortgage payments, year-end tasks, as I gaze out to sea.

A flash of black on the water catches my eye.  I watch the spot as I walk the waveline, stomping through the salt water in my gumboots.  A moment later, it reappears: two large dark faces, the silhouetted, crumpled brows of a pair of male steller sea lions, swimming side-by-side into Tofino Harbour against the swift ebb current.  I stop to watch them, letting the salt waves swirl around my boots.

I breathe out. Forcefully. Out with the bad, in with the good. And while I watch the sea lions, another black shape appears – even closer, at the edge of the break.  The rounded face of a harbour seal hangs by the peaking wave-crests, turning his head left then right, as he watches me.

Here I live, a stone’s throw from Nature (yes, Nature with a capital N). That’s what I came to Tofino for, some 15 or so years ago, to live on the edge (or, hopefully, beyond it).  Yet I realize that I have barely spent any time out in Nature for several years now!

I have been messing up on my life plan… (and, by the way, didn’t I go through this exact same thought process a year ago, when I promised byself that this summer I would get back in my kayak, back into the wilderness, But what’s happened?)

It’s a tough time to be a writer, with magazines folding left and right (National Geographic Adventure mag folded earlier this month!) and with web media not having any model by which they can charge users… and therefore pay their writers. I’ve been stressing so much about planning my career, plotting out how I can survive (financially) in this world… that I am forgetting to simply live in this world, to appreciate the parts of it that I value, that feed me.

I don’t have an answer.  It is a tough period for me.  If I am to partake in society, I have to earn a living in it (where “living” equates to $$). In that case, my Nature time comes down to being “vacation”.  And taking vacation is pretty hard to justify, when you are self-employed in a seemingly dying industry.  Or, the alternative: I return to Nature… and leave the conventions of our Society behind?

I’m not sure what I’ll do in the long run. But I know that on the shorter term, I have to make time to get “out there” more. To feed my soul. Because, right now, I am living the worst of both worlds.

As far as towns go, Tofino is lacking in many things – it is expensive to live here; our schools and hospitals are underfunded and the services are under threat; we don’t have facilities like sports centres or movie theatres or shopping malls.  The trade-off is that we have the grandeur of Nature, the rainforests and oceans that make Clayoquot Sound one of the world’s cradles of biodiversity, at our doorstep.  But if I am not going to take advantage of what this place has to offer, what am I doing living here?

So I sit here, tapping away in front of the computer screen, warm in this room with my electric heat and electric lights and the radio chattering away, thinking of those sea lions and that curious seal, and of the whales and the bears and the sandpipers and the eagles, and of the barnacles and mussels that right now are being washed by cold sea-surf on the new moon’s rising tide, all of them living their lives right here, all around me, and reminding me that there is so much more, so much more, out there.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2009 6:14 pm

    Absolutely beautiful pictures, Jacqueline. I echo your sentiments. It’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busy tasks and miss out on the real things: Nature, capital N.

  2. erika permalink
    January 3, 2010 6:17 pm

    Hello Jackie! Nice to read your blog for a break. This summer, while jogging on the neighbouring streets, I strained my left foot.. as a result, I was forced for a couple of months to take a whole afternoon off at least once a week and do a couple of hours of fast hiking on the closest sections of Bruce Trail on the Niagara Escarpment. Beside biking, it was the only way and place I could get some serious cardio exercise done and feel at peace with myself. I was lucky to be able to do this and it reminded me of my older days in my home country when I used to roam so often the valleys and the peaks of the mountains where I grew up. Nothing else can give me so much peace and beauty… so please, walk those beaches and forests and the mountains on the island for me too (I am not that good with the kayak :)). Happy New Year from us!

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