Wednesday, August 11, 2010
We were in our second day of traveling the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, doing a slow slalom around remote islands, when I realized the source of my discomfort.
Walt and I were guests onboard my brother Frank's (and his wife, Clare's) 53' catamaran - a floating condo with all the amenities of modern living, including a fully stocked galley, flush toilets, and room enough for the four of us, and two delightful pups, to relax comfortably.
Frank, who is an accomplished cook, took pride in feeding us well, referring often to the menu he had tucked in a pocket, and asking his sister from time to time what her preferences for certain recipes might be. The only discomfort there came from eating too much.
I love being on the water with Walt. Was thrilled to be able to share in my baby brother's pride in his dream-come-true floating home. Enjoyed girl time with his brave and spirited wife. Relished the soft rhythm of ocean waves rocking big boat under my bare sailor feet. There was not one bit of edge to be found in my company or the environment.
It was actually a Bald Eagle sitting atop an ancient Douglas Fir, and his nest, a haphazard mess of branches in another equally aged fir several trees away that helped me identify the tilt. Because they were so far away, the eagle and his nest seemed tiny. As had all the Bald Eagles we'd seen so far on the trip. And the seals. And the dolphins.
Even the craggy Coast Mountains showing bright bits of glacier from the mainland seemed miniature in their majesty.
Everything seemed so little and far away, and because of that the world seemed so huge. I prefer my adventures in texture-exposing close-up, not in panoramic splendor. I prefer one Bald Eagle flying directly over my head to the dozens in the distance we saw on this trip. I prefer the intimacy of hiking a mountain's flank over the breath-taking beauty of an entire range hovering on the horizon.
In that dawning awareness, I took another look at the vastness we motored our way through and toward. What did this new vista have to offer me? While I don't think I have the whole answer just yet, a part of it came on our return home.
Traces of adrenalin were still bubbling in my bloodstream from our last wild rolling ride over stormy seas to the port where our car waited when I read the news at home. A former neighbor was lost at sea from the opposite side of the island we had just left, along with three companions - their fishing boat found floating hull-up. They'd been missing for days.
We are a very small part of existence - as tiny as the eagle in the distance. Our lives hang in a tenuous balance that can tip at any time, one we have little control over. The sky and the ocean live and breathe by their own rules and we visit at our own risk. Yet not immersing myself in the miracle and magic of their power, seems to me a life only partially lived. Not seeing the big picture, staying safe in close-up, doesn't provide safety. Knowing that I'm a part, however small, of the larger whole - somewhere in the vast spaces of that knowing is the safety I've been seeking all these years in smallness.