I took the ferry over to Alert Bay today. We have been in Port McNeil now for 4 days… a little longer than we had originally planned and anticipated… It was nice to just pass the time today. To not worry about re-supplying, to not worry about fixing kayaks, to not worry about organizing and preparing… that is all done. It was nice to just let go of it all and relish in the luxury of having 4 months to complete this journey. There is no need to worry about lost days due to uncontrollable events. So I took the ferry over to Alert Bay today and just let the misty coast engulf me in its history. I walked the boardwalks imagining life in the late 18 and early 1900’s. Gazing at the little coastal homes stilted above the water and nestled on the shores edge I imagined life through the 1900’s during the fishing glory days. I walked the streets and enjoyed the town as it is today, not abandoned, not left behind…. Actually it was quite bustling. I visited the First Nations Cultural Center and let myself fall into that world for a couple of hours. It was remarkable and a total treat to experience not only the history on display but also the culture in action as a young woman shared her gift for the songs of her culture… Not a performance… she was simply using the space to practice and share with a fellow musician.
Now I am sitting in the comforts of a friend’s house, back in Port McNeil, preparing to set out again tomorrow and thinking of what words I can leave behind.
We have been gone for about three weeks now. There is a part of me that feels like I have nothing to say... because things are just the way they are supposed to be... which is great. Then there is a part of me that has so much to say, so much to express and this intense desire to somehow convey what it is like to be out here day after day... finally living the dream. Those of you that know me.... can probably guess I'm leaning towards the latter of the two...
I find it intriguing that I started this journey with a story from my childhood because I find myself continually feeling like a little kid again, constantly making links and correlations to being that young little being full of life and imagination. Those of us in the guiding industry, perhaps we never do grow up... we have found our own Never Never Land where we play games of Adventure, Make Believe, and sometimes even House. It feels surreal sometimes to be scavenging through the driftwood strewn beaches looking for the perfect logs to build the perfect 'fort' only now that we are grown ups we call it a 'shelter'. Sometimes when making dinner... I can't help but laugh because it reminds me so much of having Tea Parties and Easy Bake Ovens. When the sun is shining and the air is warm we are quick to strip the layers off, wandering the beach in our underwear like little sun babies. But why not?
Why not live in a world of total bliss and contentment without any inhibitions? The best part is that it isn't even Make Believe! How lucky are we to be living our lives exactly how we want to be, to be able to do only what we want to do in a day... how simple to only have to decide if we should paddle now or later, if we should have one wrap or two for lunch and if we should bake a dessert tonight or just eat more chocolate. Why not release the worries of the world and live today, just for today? Maybe it is selfish... and of course it isn't always that easy... there are many paddle strokes in a day to contemplate the world over... but those stolen childish moments of bliss sure feel good and I have no intentions of stopping them! In fact my intentions are to revel in them, to revel in those moments of bliss and happiness just as much as those moments of sorrow, frustration and sometimes even anger. This is a journey through my own eyes... it is everything that I want it to be... the experience is consuming.
We laugh. We laugh so much that it hurts. We are so deliriously goofy and silly that it makes the world (our world) a wonderfully fabulous place! We have had our moments of frustration and those times when we are a little off but they are so minute that they hardly leave a mark in the sand and they are nothing the first high tide can't wash away. It is no surprise that we travel so well together and that we laugh so freely, but it is a welcome confirmation to know that we were right.
Self-inflicted/provided entertainment is a daily occurrence. We have no shortage of stories to tell and things to laugh about. It is easy to be humble out here. It is easy to be humbled… It is a completely different experience to be out here with only ourselves to be accountable to… with no clients to be concerned about. I have learnt and experienced so much more in these three weeks simply because I had the freedom to try… The freedom to make a mistake (and thankfully the paddling partner to correct me when I am wrong!). We both make our mistakes and we are both better paddlers for it.
We have days where we talk endlessly, every paddle stroke is fueled by words. We have days where we hardly say a word at all, every paddle stroke is fueled by thoughts. Sometimes we experience the sounds around us, sometimes we push play and create our own soundtrack... individually singing along to our chosen mood (what a sound it must be to the outsider!). But whatever the day is…. We are always there… taking it in.
The scenery has been incredible, moving from the familiar setting of the Southern Gulf Islands into more and more remote areas of the coast. Slowly finding that ‘home’ no longer had to be a designated campsite and instead could be just about anywhere our hearts desired. The luxury being that we could paddle as far or as short as we wanted… sometimes resulting in home not revealing itself until 8, 9 or even 10pm. We have found small communities nestled in beautiful bays, turning the corner and finding just want you would imagine for an old coastal village… a horseshoe shaped community with a wooded church in the middle, a multi-functioning general store, wooden character homes and grassy, mossy rolling hills. I have fallen in love many times over with this coast… There is comfort in knowing there is so much space out here… I can’t say it is untouched, the forests tell that story… but there is space and it is beautiful. It feels good to breathe… It feels good to see it through my own eyes…
We are more than ready to expand our lungs again tomorrow… after the fiascos of Port McNeil we have decided that maybe we should avoid towns from now on… Paddling is easier… Oh, and looking at the bottom of your boat is also a bad idea… better to leave some things as ‘what you don’t know’!! All is well that ends well.