Monday, December 20, 2010
Here is my beloved Chestermans Beach, in snow. That is Lone Cone in the background, on Meares Island, right across the harbour from the village centre. The winter I lived on the beach, my wooden cabin was just to the right, behind the dunes.
I stepped out every morning onto a beach which changed, in color, in sand formations sculpted by the tide, and in mood, so that no two times on the beach were ever the same. Beautiful always, and always something new to see.
I would look up and down the beach. Sometimes I would turn slooooooowly in a circle, viewing beauty for 360 degrees, with a smile of total joy and sustained disbelief that I was actually, finally, there. For ten years, I felt that joy, every single day. It never got old. I never took it for granted. It amazed me, hourly, and daily, until the day I left.
Snow was a rarity there, then. It would sometimes sprinkle down and stay for a few hours, then melt away.The climate was so mild, Tofino was often the "hot spot" of Canada on the evening news. Some days the rains lashed the cabin walls wildly. When forced to be out in it, rain slickers and rubber boots were absolutely vital; we walked bent over against the wind and rain, stamped into the Common Loaf bake shop, all heads looking up to see who entered, half a dozen smiles to greet you.
But some days were mild and warm. I remember especially one sunny New Year's Day, my first one there, when I took my camera and wandered the beaches at Wickanninish and South Beach, dressed only in a sweatshirt and jeans, and more than warm enough.
Another time, at South Beach, I was there in storm, the waves roaring in sounding like jet planes, crashing against the huge standing rocks, and breaking over them with white froth.
Now everyone's climates are changing, everywhere. This is a colder winter than we are used to on the Island, but still a very far cry from the temperatures of the Prairies or the East, who are really getting hammered this year. I am grateful the ocean keeps our temperatures more moderate.
It was a spectacularly beautiful place. The village itself drew creative and alternative folk, so I was among my people there - painters, sculptors, writers, environmentalists, activists, photographers, musicians. First Nations and mumuklees (white people) shared the area amicably, in friendship. When you live right in nature like that, you truly feel as one with the universe and all of its creatures and components, the huge eco-system that sustains everything.
I remember one Winter Solstice, my first, attending a gathering where we faced the Four Directions and people spoke beautifully poetic prayers to the elements, and to the North, East, South and West Winds. Then a fire was lit and people jumped across the flames, to cross over. I was too shy, too afraid and likely too un-limber to jump. But I loved being there.
That Spring Solstice, I was one of a handful who gathered before dawn on Frank's Island, across the sandbar from my cabin. One fellow was putting the finishing touches on drawing a labyrinth in the sand for us to follow. A friend of mine came across the beach with her small son, carrying a paper torch, lit and glowing through the pre-dawn darkness. As we completed walking the labyrinth, as dawn was slowly filtering light across the sky, the tide was coming up and across our feet. We had to hurry before the water rose too high. We just made it across.
Sigh. The word "Solstice" takes me back to Tofino as that is what everyone observed there. It was out of the mainstream, away from the commercial frenzy of city Decembers. There, folks would gather some time around Christmas, and have a potluck. At some point, someone might bring in a branch of evergreen for the scent and, some hours later, take it back outside.
I so loved living there. My soul was absolutely in synch with that place. It was a beautiful ten years.