Saturday, June 11, 2016

Leaving these bonnie North Sea shores...

Joan, last launch, near the ruins of the harbour at Auchmithie.
Soon we will leave the bonnie North Sea shores of Base Camp 2 to return to Base Camp 1, near the waters of the Salish Sea, off Vancouver Island's east coast. It's been a lovely sojourn here in Scotland. As always, there was some some work, and lots of healthy "dashes" of play. It's a nice balance. 

"Base camp" means home. Pliny the Elder, the Roman philosopher, naturalist, author and military commander, said that "home is where the heart is". We've discovered that the heart can be in more than one place.

In an ideal sense, "home" is where there is love and acceptance. It is a place to both launch and land. It sends you away and welcomes you back. 

As for now, the kayaks have been transported to the mystery-filled, incredibly beautiful Isle of Skye, where we will reunite with them, and live, later in the year. 

On the racks of the KIA KTV and on their way to Skye.
Another locum awaits, with responsibilities spanning three lovely highland villages. It will offer new challenges and opportunities to learn more about the unique history and culture of the "highlands and the islands". As with everywhere we've ever served, there will be lovely people to come to know, people who strive to make the world a better place for all.

In the meantime, it will be good to be back home in Base Camp 1 again, settled amidst the Douglas firs and the arbutus trees, the Cowichan "warmland", and Canadian family and friends.

Waiting at the Glenelg - Skye ferry.

Life can be very much like a ferry, leaving one shore for the next and returning, time after time.

The "Glenachulish", the last turntable ferry in Scotland.
Whatever the weather, the currents, the tides, or the taskings, there is a "home" port on either side.

Of course there's another way of looking at it, according to 17th century Japanese poet, Matsuo Bashō...and it's a very powerful perspective.

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” 

The "journey" itself is home. That resonates. I really like that. :)

Thursday, June 09, 2016

When pals inspire pals...

Paddling past the ruins of Findlater Castle.
Gumption  [guhmp-shuh n]
Courage, confidence, spunk, guts, initiative

With recent blue skies and fine weather, there have been so many adventures...and so little time to share them in posts. Here's a few more pics of a perfect day on the Moray Firth with Joan, Linda, and Ian, who put together the perfect "paddling plan".

Our pal, Linda, from Canada, has a great attitude towards trying new things. So...a little rock hopping, cave exploring, surf landing and launching on the North Sea - all for the first time, and all in the same day - didn't even cause her to blink. That's gumption.

Gumption is good, and is to be celebrated. 

Ian shares a wealth of experience.
Life is lived most fully when it's lived with gumption.

Hey, let's do it again. :)
It minimises, even eliminates, regrets.

Rest, reflection and a wee bit of lunch...before we go again.
It creates and maximizes layer upon layer of beautiful memories.

The boats are ready and waiting...the waves are building.
Gumption leaves no door unopened. It's a thankful and appreciative approach to, after all, begs to be explored and discovered.

The paddlers strike a pose. :)
The failures along the way don't much matter, they are simply steps along the journey...and every step counts.

Launch from Sunnyside Beach.
Gumption's rewards are portals to growth, and brave new experiences.

Rare calm through the Bow Fiddle.
At the end of the day, gumption assures a warm glow...and personal enrichment.

Paddling into Cullen...after an amazing day.
Awesome day, L, thanks for the reminder....and the inspiration. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

A cracking paddling day on the Moray Firth...

It's was our third time on Scotland's Moray Firth...and another "Blue Sky" Scotland day! The weather window that Ian had picked was absolutely perfect.

While Ian and I shuttled the Kayak Transport Vehicles, establishing launch and egress positions at Sandend and Portsoy, Joan and Linda got the deposited kit together for the paddle. It was Linda's first opportunity to experience Scottish waters in a sea kayak...and the day lived up to all expectations. 

I, admittedly, go on a bit about how everything is pretty much perfect in the land of my birth. OK, so I can be a little irritating. :)

But...what a day!

Rock hopping...

Marine birds...

Endless nooks and crannies to explore...

"Secret" and mysterious places...

Narrow passageways that lead to an endless horizon...

Grins that just won't go away.

So many places to go, things to do...

And, nobody got wet here, but later... ;)

More to come...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Old Man of Storr: a real-life, ancient and "alien" landscape...or the thumb of a giant?

It's an "alien" landscape and topography...but in a most magical, mysterious, and completely enchanting way. Located on the Trottornish Ridge of the Isle of Skye, the Old Man of Storr is a 50-metre high geological formation that defies the imagination. A very, very long time ago, the land around it began to "slip" away towards the sea.

The more durable composition of the "Old Man's" geology (and the other vertical pinnacles and spires) have allowed it to remain, still resisting the massive forces of time and erosion. 

Driving north, from Portree, we could see the formations from the highway, still at some distance away. 

By the time Joan, Linda, and I arrived at the trailhead, rain and cloud had begun to envelop the landscape. 

Reaching the "Old Man", after 45 minutes of climbing, "he" had almost vanished in the clouds, and frequent squalls of horizontal rain.

Other hikers would come and go, suddenly materialising out of the swirling mists, and disappearing just as quickly.

But we'd seen him, the legendary "Old Man", and even taken shelter in the lee of his ancient body.

The geologist's reasoning makes sense...but there's another explanation for the Old Man's presence. Local folklore includes many stories of giants, fairies, goddesses, and spirits. Could it have been that it was the giants who moved into place the massive Standing Stones, and created the timeless and haunting Stone Circles? 

Perhaps, as one legend suggests, the "Old Man" is the thumb of a giant who fell dead, and was buried in the earth, here on the Isle of Skye? Ah, not so "alien", after all.

Maybe...yes, just maybe. This is, after all, a country that is truly a place of magic, mystery, and completely believable stories and tales. ;)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An Iron Age fort, and the strength of spirit of the men and women of Auchmithie...all in a day's paddle.

Once upon a time, Lud Castle, an Iron Age promontory fort sat above the 30 metre vertical sandstone cliffs. It was a sound location, strategically. Today, we landed our sea kayaks, on the neighbouring beach.

The tiny figures of two hikers on the grassy top (image above), give scale to this site, once inhabited by prehistoric Celts. A narrow neck of land, to a current day farmer's field, was the only access to the ancient coastal stronghold.

Today, for us, the deserted beach would offer a place to stretch legs, enjoy a second lunch...and wonder, dreamily, who might have shared a similarly simple meal in this very place, from 700 BC to 500 AD. 

It was another perfect day to be on the water.

Sea birds had watched our passage from waterfront "balconies", eroded and etched into the sandstone - wonderful observation (and nesting) platforms. 400 million years ago, when these rocks were formed, "Scotland" was below the equator and part of a desert belt.

It was a different world, the advent of humankind still a very, very long way away into the future. Heaven and earth would move before that would happen.

It's rare that we ever encounter folks on the water here, except for those passing by in occasional fishing boats.

This glowing red sandstone, cave-infused, marine bird paradise is a bit of a "best kept secret". It's also the closest paddling spot, closest to home, here at Base Camp 2. Admittedly, we need to get out to more places...but its near-at-hand siren call is hard to resist.

Today, we met up with two fellow paddlers, also enjoying a fine day on the North Sea.

We shared some smiles, some good conversation...thankful to be sharing the waters with one another.

And then we were alone again...


A turn to the starboard would take us to Norway. It would be a bit far for today.

Returning to the waters off Auchmithie, where a year ago, dolphins-on-a-mission sped joyfully by us, we allowed the calm and gently rolling waves to massage body, mind, and spirit. 

Back in the ruined harbour, I thought of those strong and brave women of Auchmithie. There was no jetty, and in the pre-dawn hours they carried their men to the little fishing boats. The fishers would begin their long, dangerous, and exhausting day with dry clothes. It would have most surely been a life-saving, albeit backbreaking, labour.

They acknowledged their need for one another. Some today might raise their eyebrows at the image...women carrying their men to work. The pride of the men of Auchmithie, however, never entered the equation. 

That's strength of spirit...on both sides.

The mystery of Iron Age fort, a reminder of our inter-dependence and our need for one another...all in a day's paddle.

Monday, May 09, 2016

A "dish of ice cream, a bowl of Brandy"...and why self-care matters.

There is never enough “ice cream and Brandy”. :) Taking time for regular excursions to their source, contributes abundantly to wholeness and health. A couple of days ago, we got some elevation, “chilling” in a spring snowfield (the "ice cream"), and drinking in deeply the beauty of a mountain corrie: Loch Brandy, in Scotland's nearby Angus Glens.

Over the years, I have regularly given talks and workshops to groups on the importance of self-care, personal health, ageing, and wellness. By and large, although these gatherings have been generally well attended and received, I don’t believe that they have had much lasting effect. Admittedly, change, and new disciplines are rarely easy.

I have offered similar workshops to colleagues…many of whom suffer the effects of poorly-managed stress and lifestyle choices that are not in their best interests. Few, however, have seen the discussion of self-care as a priority, preferring to occupy their waking (and probably sleeping) hours with endless gatherings focussed on strategic planning, organisational structural change (a contemporary euphemism for “survival”), table group discussions, and a plenitude of other activities for what I see (in my humble opinion, of course) to be “busy talk”.

The idea of of “self” care, it would seem, is just too self-indulgent. Some have even suggested that, given all the issues facing the world, a focus on personal health and wellness is…selfish. Others plead that there is not enough “time” for such concerns, given pressing schedules and itineraries.

Although I would never question the dedication and commitment of such folks to the causes they address, I would gently ask how they plan to survive to carry on: with bodies that are weary, achey, poorly nourished, overweight, and under-exercised; minds that are stressed beyond reason; relationships that are neglected; and spirits that are exhausted and burdened with anxiousness.

Why wouldn’t we want to be at our very best? If not for ourselves, then for those who give our lives deepest meaning and value - our families, and all, everywhere, who depend on our continued ability to make a contribution to peace, justice, and the integrity of Creation. 

We make that contribution to those we love, and all who call out to us, most effectively when we operate from a position of strength and vibrant wellness…aided by committed time and attention to personal health and wholeness.

We all have time for that.

My personal "achilles" my Achilles - a little self-care, enroute. 
We may work tirelessly for actions to safeguard the environment and all who are most vulnerable. Yet we spend so little time nourishing ourselves, exploring, discovering, breathing deeply, experiencing vulnerability…connecting. It’s as if we feel that our humanity is separate and disconnected from the web of life. As one writer has said, “we are the animals, the rainforest, the ocean, and the earth.” We are not separate. When we fail to take the time to care for ourselves, our rhetoric, on behalf of others, lacks both meaning and sincerity.

Self-care matters…it is, after all, our “base of operations”. 

And a little more. :)
Why is this so difficult for so many to understand, especially in a society we all know to be plagued with an epidemic of unnecessary illness and poor health. Why are we reluctant to treat body, mind, and spirit with gentleness and respect? What possible excuse could there be not to care sufficiently for ourselves?

On this day, health and wholeness were enhanced by a simple “dish of ice cream and a bowl of Brandy”.

Some might argue that it’s all very well for those that have the time for such “indulgences”. But it is when one believes that they are too “busy" to make the time and effort for the discipline of self-care, time can run out.

There are infinite sources of “ice cream and Brandy” - it is there even in those quiet moments, on the way home, waiting for the delightful little lambs to be gathered together.

We’re only on this planet once…we belong to one another. We contribute to and are an integral part of the web of life, and we need to be the best we can possibly be. 

It becomes a precious gift to ourselves, and to one another.