Wednesday, February 03, 2016

The Arbutus...and the mystery of the "ordinary".

They are all around, and yet they had quietly and over time, almost slipped away from my awareness. Familiarity had nurtured a sense of the "ordinary"...

Base Camp 1 is located close to the sea, on south Vancouver Island. There are many Arbutus trees that fill the woods around our home, sharing the forest floor with the towering Douglas firs. In some ways, they are a most unlikely, but delightful pairing. As with many things in life that "have always been there", we have tended to take them for granted...and forget to appreciate their special uniqueness and beauty. The Arbutus (Latin word for "strawberry tree) truly are a gift - rare, splendid and delightful.

Arbutus trees (Arbutus menziesii), also known as Pacific Madrone, are the only broad-leafed evergreen trees in Canada. Growing up to 30 metres in height, they are native to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California and are usually found only within 5 km (3 miles) of the ocean. Other than their desire to be near the salt water, they ask for very little, and are content to live in shallow, nutrient-poor and rocky soil. Like their neighbours, the Douglas fir, they are drought-tolerant which make them a perfect fit for the hot, dry summers.

Paddling along the coast of Vancouver Island, and the magical Gulf Islands, is to be welcomed by the Arbutus as they reach out - often, completely horizontally - over the water, their crooked trunks bidding us welcome. They must have some marvellous stories to tell...of other mariners they have observed over the millennia, storms they have faced, seasons through which they have transitioned.

The bark is thin and delicate, a warm combination of red, chartreuse, and brown. It flakes off and covers the ground, "crispy" beneath the hiker's feet. For countless generations, the Coast Salish people used the bark for tanning hides and making a medicine to treat stomach aches, skin ailments, cramps, colds, and even as a basis for contraception. 

When the bark is wet, it simply shines, as if highly polished by a patient and devoted artisan.

In the Spring, clusters of bell-shaped white, flowers hang from the end of twigs, attracting bees and providing a source of honey for beekeepers. 

The red berries of the Arbutus are edible and fruit-eating birds such as thrushes, robins, waxwings, woodpeckers appear to experience a mild form of intoxication as they gorge on the brightly coloured treat. Apparently the berries can ferment, while still on the tree...offering a slight "buzz" - also enjoyed by bears willing to climb up into the branches! Perhaps more of interest to we humans, the antioxidant capacity of polyphenols, found in the berries, have revealed a high potential to treat diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

We have lived amongst these Arbutus trees, here on Vancouver Island, for just over thirteen years now. Stunning and eye-catching at first, over time they became "part of the forest", almost invisible to our busy and distracted eyes. They became, in many ways..."ordinary". 

They are, however, extraordinary, not unlike a glass of cool, fresh water...or a sunrise or a sunset...or the sound of rain falling, or the rush of waves releasing their energy upon the shore...or the colours of a gentle rainbow. These trees are full of mystery, like the invisible current that powers our a message, sent 5000 miles in a brief the wonderful infectiousness of a smile.

I began to realize, that even those around us who are very precious - family, friends, neighbours, co-workers - can become as an Arbutus in a forest. Part of our every day, they can quietly slip beneath our consciousness, and become part of life's backdrop. We must never let that happen.

Today is a good day to remind someone we love, someone we appreciate, someone who has touched our lives, even a stranger who has yet to become a friend, that they will never become "ordinary"...for they, like the Arbutus, are gifts - full of wonder, mystery, potential, and infinite value.

I must never let the Arbutus trees, who faithfully greet us every single morning and bid us a fond good night at the end of each day, slip from my awareness again. They are, indeed, precious.

"The wonder is that we can see these trees 
and not wonder more..."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Snowshoe trek to Anderson Lake and maple butter "BeaverTails"...totally Canadian, eh?

Joan, and Mount Washington.
One of the special things about Vancouver Island, for outdoor enthusiasts, is the climate, the mildest in Canada. On this, the largest island on the West coast of North America, several sub-tropical crops such as lemons and olives can be grown. We had a lovely palm tree, growing out front, amongst the huge Douglas Fir trees until our resident deer population did the completely unthinkable - they ate it! I know, they were here first.

This "Mediterranean" climate means...choices

On a typical January morning, it is almost always possible to choose to go sea kayaking or hiking, downhill or Nordic skiing, or even play a round of golf. Not bad. 

Several days ago, five of us, Sara (who graciously provided the snowshoes), Linda, Joan, Kasey the Dog, and myself, met up on the lower slopes of Mount Washington, about a two hour drive, north of Base Camp 1. At the nearby alpine resort, there is currently a snow base of 283cm (over 9 ft)) at the 1488m elevation (almost 5000 ft.) At the trailhead, where we would put on the snowshoes, it was about two thirds that depth - a LOT of snow. 

Destination: Anderson Lake, in simply pristine conditions.

Image, courtesy of Linda.
Strangely, for two people who have spent most of their lives in Canada and who love winter, neither Joan nor I had ever snowshoed. I had been issued complete winter kit, including snowshoes, during my years with the Canadian Forces, but even with a deployment to the Arctic (Inuvik) at one point, and subsequently spending a short time in Tuktoyaktuk (in January), on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, there was never the opportunity to use them.

They are great!

Kasey the Dog, letting me lead.
Snowshoes have been around for about 6000 years. They were a serious matter of survival, not recreation, getting people around on the snow when winter conditions would have been impassable. The physics around snowshoes is straightforward, they simply distribute a person's weight over a greater area. There is, therefore, more snow supporting the body's weight than if one was just wearing boots. You literally "float" on the snow.

Navigating the trails (or off trail) on snowshoes, requires seemingly little energy even though caloric expenditure can be high - sounds perfect to me. 

Linda, and a peaceful winter landscape.
As a consequence of day time melting and nighttime freezing, there was a crust on the surface. Occasionally, even the snowshoes would break through to a depth of over a foot and a half. It made one realise that without snowshoes, one would break through to waist level. Without this gear, it would be virtually impossible to get back without assistance. Note to self: if ever considering a purchase of this kit, don't scrimp on quality of bindings. A failure there could mean time spent awaiting rescue.

Image, courtesy of Linda.
Heading back to the trailhead, it was clear that there had been some of the aforementioned caloric expenditure - even though we had stopped for a lunch break with adequate time and supplies to fuel up.

Sara and Linda...mid-way fuel stop.
A solution awaited at the alpine resort...yes, BeaverTails.

(Warning: Don't click on this link if you are attempting to avoid gastronomic temptation.)

And now...for a treat!
Could any over-the-top pastry treat be more "Canadian" than a maple butter BeaverTail...with a drizzle of rich chocolate?

So much for the hard-earned calorie loss!

Choices. ;)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The early morning, and the lesser travelled path...

I find the early morning, pre-dawn darkness, a most exquisite time. It's a gentle time, perfect for those with a "listening" soul. Rising early, there is a synchronicity with our closest star, the sun...we look forward to greeting one another as the earth turns us towards its shining face.

In the hours before the sun rises, the world is still sleepy, making few demands...we have the gift of time to prepare hearts and minds. 

There is a freshness to the air...nature has rested too. Rising early allows us to get our bearings, ground ourselves, and quietly unfurl the wings that will take us through the next precious twenty-four hours. In those quiet, peaceful, and unhurried moments, we have the opportunity to set the "tone" for the day.

Rising late, the world has already begun it's busy, oft frenetic pace. The day's demands confront us, impatiently and with very little grace, even before we have achieved full consciousness. The "carousel" has already begun to spin, requiring us to catch up, hold on...or be spun rudely off. There is a sense of powerlessness. Tone and agendas have already been set by others. The innocence and delicacy of those first waking moments are stirred and blurred. It is no wonder that we may feel disorientated and out of sorts. 

On this day, we awoke in the early morning darkness to a day that appeared dreary, "dreich" and dismal. Our little community, on the shores of the Salish Sea, was enveloped in a thick, impenetrable fog. 

Many that day, would never see the sun. Perhaps they would even forget that there is a world "above the clouds"...a world of blue skies, bright winter sunshine, and air clarity enabling one to see forever, over stunning snow-frosted forests and soaring mountain peaks. 

It would have been easier to stay home, pour another cup of coffee, gaze wistfully out the window...and remain in the gloom.

But we made a choice to take the lesser travelled path. It was a path that would ultimately lead to sunshine and azure skies, sparkling snow and a winter forest...a world apart and a world away.

The lesser travelled path requires effort. The choice must be made to break through inertia, whose "siren" call tempts us to do nothing, to remain unchanged, to choose the comfort and safety of the familiar. To do so, however, is to remain in the comfortless, even chilling, fog. Life and experience becomes limited to the status quo, its "best before date" vanishing in the swirling mists of time already past.

The lesser travelled path is new territory, and not always well posted. It begs situation awareness, a focus on the moment. This, however, is always a good thing. We find ourselves living fully, with an acute awareness of the world around us. We only have the moment, and we need to value it and drink it in, for it will never come again.

There are admittedly fewer companions on this path. It can, at times, be lonely. But those we meet are often of like mind and reflect a depth of varied experience. They have risen early, embraced the day...and chosen the lesser travelled way. They tend to be the listeners, the doers, the dreamers, the adventurers. They would rather play the game, than passively watch it, or talk endlessly about it. Their smiles and rosy, glowing cheeks reflect a body happy to be at one with nature - and moving. Conversations may be short, and in hushed tones, but they are gently punctuated with warmth and shared gratitude. The fact is, we would all rather listen, for we know that there are mentors amongst us, and it is in listening that we learn from one another.

This is the path that takes us above the clouds...where the sun always shines, and the skies are always clear.

The early morning, and the lesser travelled path...both so very lovely, both so very special.

All images are taken from the summit ridge of Mt. Tzouhalem, looking west over the Cowichan Valley of south Vancouver Island.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rebel, rebel...we'll miss you.

David Bowie was a "rebel" whose music, relentless creative spirit, and artistic personality made the world a little more colourful. He was full of love and life.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said..."David Bowie was a fearless original with the power to charm. We'll miss him."

And Canadian astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield, who sang Bowie's "Space Oddity" from the International Space Station..."Ashes to ashes, dust to stardust. Your brilliance inspired us all. Goodbye Starman." 

Brilliant indeed. Bravo, thank you David...the music will live on forever

Sunday, December 27, 2015

From sea to sky and back...

Pat, Linda, and Joan...near the summit of Mt. Tzouhalem.
I tend to go on a bit about Base Camp 2 (Scotland) and sometimes it probably seems I don't sufficiently appreciate Base Camp 1 (Vancouver Island). But I really do appreciate both.

And here's the thing. Here on south VI, we live in a land of sea and mountains - and Mediterranean climate. Five minutes from home, twelve months of the year, we can hike in the morning (sometimes in snow), and sea kayak in the afternoon. Some folks even choose to golf, for heaven's sake! My cousin, MG Mike, may have a comment on that. ;)

Today, we didn't paddle, but we did hike. Linda, Pat, Joan, and myself headed up our next-door mountain. At the trailhead, it was relatively balmy, with a light rain falling. An hour later, we were at the top of Mt. Tzouhalem, in quintessential winter conditions.

Returning to the trailhead, we were back to a world of "green", punctuated by lovely, orange, arbutus trees.

Pat, Joan, and myself near the trailhead. (Photo courtesy of Linda)
Base Camp 1 is, indeed, very special.

It was a great day, with special hiking pals. :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Peace on earth, goodwill to world, under the sun.

This really is a most extraordinary time of the year. Perhaps more than any other month or season, all around the world, humankind attaches a profound significance to these late December days. 

Searching with open hearts and minds, we discover that people of many faiths and traditions are reminded of spiritual connection, and our interconnectedness with one another, and with nature. There is a gentle understanding that the Earth should be seen as a shared "community", and that there must be a common quest for peace and understanding on our fragile, "island" home. The annual cycle of the sun also shares with us hope for the New Year. The Longest Night of the winter solstice is now past, and the sun has begun to slowly rise and return to its position high in the sky...and we are assured that there will be sufficient light to illuminate our path together. 

The warmest and most hopeful efforts find their birth in compassion, kindness, respect, courage, and the willingness to live love and to seek out the best for one another, everywhere. Caring for the most vulnerable will always be a measure of our humanity, and a reflection of our understanding of what truly matters in life. May all these things prevail in our lives in this New Year to come. And may one and all, diverse and different though we may be, come to understand and celebrate each both trust and affection.

We truly are, one world, under the sun that shines above us and gives us life.

Joan and I warmly wish you peace, happiness, good health...and strength for the journey.

Happy Christmas, one and all.

Top: Joan, above Loch Brandy, Cairngorms National Park, Base Camp 2. 
Bottom: Our two "pals", lunch on the beach at Gabriola Island, Base Camp 1.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The sun, the wind, and the crashing waves...and happily absorbing their energy.

A clear November Day on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Pacific storms, this past week, have kept us off the water.

We took these pics on the west coast of the Island, near Tofino, about a three and a half hour drive from Base Camp 1. As always, eyes were drawn to the magnificent beauty of the incoming waves. The thought at the time, however, was much more a contemplative one. I remember thinking that every time we have been in such a place, where the vast ocean meets the exposed land, there is a profound sense of the "transfer" of energy. It's the same here, on the Pacific coast, or along the rugged coast of the Scottish North Sea...or anywhere. And it's more than tangible. The energy can be felt. It washes over you, with a "transforming" effect. There's a reason for that.

I was always fascinated by lessons learned in high school physics classes. (My life's vocation took a very different direction, however, in part because I am quite hopeless in any practical applications of physics or mechanics.)

One thing I've always remembered is "the law of the conservation of energy". (Excellent explanation here.) This law states that, in a closed system, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be changed or transferred from one form to another. Standing on the sea shore, watching, listening to, and "experiencing" ocean waves roll onto the beach provides a very real example of this.

Youth...braving the chill.
Just think for a moment about the origin of those waves. It's the sun. It's the energy of the sun that heats the atmosphere, the ocean surface, and the earth. Since this heating is uneven, there is a movement of air, which we know as wind. The sun's energy, therefore, has been transferred, in part, to the movement of air. The energy in the moving air in turn touches the surface of the ocean and the friction of that contact created causes waves to be formed. The energy, in the waves, moves through the water until it comes into contact with the shore, where it is transformed yet again.

The energy in the waves is then changed to heat, and sound, and the kinetic forces that swirl the sand and erode the rocks. Of course, it is far more complicated than that, but I will only get into trouble with those much wiser than I if I go any further with this very simple illustration. ;)

The point I want to make is simply that some of the extraordinary energy that is released by the ocean waves can be experienced and enjoyed by our bodies, minds, and spirits. Is that not why so many are drawn to places such as the seaside, where ocean waves meet the land and exchange and offer their energy to all matter and all life that would receive it. 

Could it explain why we feel so invigorated listening to, and watching, the crashing of ocean waves. At this time of the year many come to our Island from all over the world to "storm watch". The experience excites, and stimulates, and feeds the spirit. It can be truly nature at its dramatic best.

And is that not why some of life's most difficult questions find resolution in such special places? Is the sea shore, perhaps, one of those wild landscapes, those "thin" places of Celtic tradition, where we feel and draw deeply in, not only the transformed energy of the sun and the wind and the waves, but the very heartbeat and breath of this fragile, island planet. 

"I must go down to the seas again"*...a wonderful place to think, find clarity, and simply be.

*From John Masefield's poem, "Sea Fever".

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Celebrating a self-propelled 43rd wedding anniversary, a "gourmet" lunch...and entertainment. :)

It was our 43rd anniversary yesterday…it would be a very special day.

The alarm went off at 0600 hrs. I wished Joan a cheery "Happy anniversary!". Yes, she was definitely pleased that I had remembered. “So, what have you got planned?”, she asked. 

I couldn’t wait to tell her.

"Well", I said, "I thought we would spend the day on the water." The weather, after all, was quite hospitable for early December on Vancouver Island - some rain, and a mild six degrees. Perfect for an important outdoor celebration.

"After we have a cup of your excellent coffee", I assured her, "We'll get the kit packed up and head out."

“And, you have lunch already prepared?”, my partner asked, broadly smiling. (Was that an almost imperceptible roll of the eyes? Hmmm.)

“Absolutely.”, I said with confidence and without a moment's hesitation, “Don't I always?" :)

After quickly packing up, loading the kayaks on the Kayak Transport Vehicle, launching, and paddling for just over an hour...we arrived at the "secret beach", on Salt Spring Island. Securing the kayaks above the tide line, we climbed the steep hill overlooking Sansum Narrows. 

In no time at all, the stove was fired up and a gourmet lunch was ready...lentil barley soup AND a fresh Mediterranean loaf. 

Pretty darn impressive. was astonishingly delicious!

Needless to say, Joan appeared mightily impressed, chuffed! It was, after all, a 1st Class venue - ocean view, no lineups, no need for reservations, private dining, wonderfully atmospheric. The luncheon, truly gourmet, at a price impossible to beat, and served with style and impeccable grace.

After all these years...the dining out experience just gets better and better. ;)

And there was more...there was entertainment.

While Joan got settled with a cup of hot, steaming green tea (I forgot to pack a sweet for dessert), I returned to the beach.

Gearing up, I launched the kayak and paddled around to the base of the cliff. With Joan high on the hill, and three curious seals for company, I noted (with relief) that our old pal the grumpy, teeth-baring, growling, 2,500 lb, Stellar sea lion, was nowhere in sight. Good, because, I might well end up in the water.

We had learned some very fun balance exercises from Gordon Brown, on the Isle of Skye, a year or so ago. These would serve as the post-luncheon entertainment.

With applause ringing from high above, I began and completed several circuits of the kayak deck.

First, up and out of the cockpit...

Swivel around and face the stern...

Swing legs over...

And back over again, straddle...and back into the cockpit. It's a full circuit...easy peasy!

Several circuits later, and bored with it all, the seals swam away - with what appeared to be a rather sympathetic glance in Joan's direction. ;)

Ah, but it had been a wonderful outdoor, self-propelled, celebration of 43 years of marriage.

We still had miles yet to paddle before the December darkness would fall on these lovely Southern Gulf Islands' waters, and on this special day. Paddling back to the beach to meet back up with Joan, I pondered how time passes so very quickly.

The day was 43 years ago. It was Grey Cup weekend (the final game in the Canadian Football League season) in Hamilton, Ontario...and the Hamilton Tiger Cats won the cup. 

43 years...and it feels like yesterday. In so many ways, it really was...just yesterday.

We must all do whatever we can to help create a better world for all. That begins with cherishing and finding value in every single moment. It is in each single moment, and even in the most difficult ones, that we discover and embrace the very gift of life.

And we must never lose that precious gift from childhood, a sense of playfulness. I think maybe, just maybe, it's one of the qualities that can keep us "young" body, mind, and in spirit. ;)

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Time well spent, in a peaceful December forest...

Joan and Linda and I went for a long walk in a peaceful forest, on Salt Spring Island. We found some marvellous trails, and took time to linger...long enough to find a few geocaches along the way. Whether it's in the hills, or in the mountains, or in a quiet, December forest, the simple act of being outside is always such a "tonic".

As a young boy, I would frequently take long walks with my father. He loved the outdoors and was comfortable and at home in both the deep woods and on the water. He had gone to sea as a young man, before settling into his career. It seemed he'd been everywhere. And everywhere he went, he loved to explore the outdoors.

It didn't matter if it was raining or snowing or if the wind was blowing fiercely, we would go out. He and my mother would gently advise, "Wrap yourself up." Today, we call that "layering", and off we'd go. I was always glad that we did - once we got out.

Dad seemed to know the name of every tree and plant. He would tell me about the sun and the moon and the stars, pointing out the constellations in the night sky. He was fascinated by every aspect of nature and had so many reflections to share. There were countless stories, and with every story came a lesson. (I wish I had been a much better listener.) It was always a "tonic", to be outside with him.

A tonic is something that invigorates, refreshes, restores - makes you feel "alive" and vibrant. Tonics come from many sources. Sufficient sleep works. 
Good nutritious food serves as a tonic. 

A change in routine...getting away, discovering and learning new things, pushing comfort levels...these things refresh and invigorate. And there's probably nothing more natural, and more effective a tonic, as simply being outside in nature...whether it's on land or on the water.

Image, courtesy of Linda.
And when you get to the seashore, at the end of the trail...

...there's a tangible "glow". :)

It was time well spent, in a peaceful December forest, not very far at all from Base Camp 1.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Compassion, and living in a world of wind and swell...the "paddle" we must never let go.

Paddling these narrow boats on the sea is a multifaceted experience. On calm days, forward momentum is almost effortless...the rhythm and even cadence of the easy paddle strokes offer an almost meditative experience. Muscle memory is the captain of this ship in these conditions. It is possible to disengage the mind, and allow the imagination full reign. There is only the moment. The world of sea, sky, and land becomes a "dreamscape". Everything is possible...the limitations of time evaporate. There is a sense that one could paddle forever...until the cramped quarters and snug cockpit eventually remind the body that it is time to stretch, for a moment or two of respite...or even a little "shore time". It's never hard work though.

On days when wind and swell delight in the creation of pitch, yaw, and roll, the paddler works much harder. Physical forces acting on the boat demand an equal and opposite reaction. The boat, left to its own devices, is happy to go with the flow. In a beam wind, it wants to weathercock its bow into the wind, just like a rooftop rooster, defining the direction of the wind. The paddler strains to balance all these forces, and maintain his chosen course and direction. 

The fact is, we live in a world of "wind and swell" is rarely quiet on any front. Our own personal lives are subject to turbulence and uncertainty and the often heart-wrenching abyss of the unknown. In the world at large, daily headlines tell of impossibly frightening events...

There can so easily be a sense of powerlessness.

In the midst of such conditions, the paddler would never throw his paddle into the sea, and his hands up in despair. He would not give in and throw himself into the waves.

She would stay the course...maintaining course and direction, confident in her abilities and trusting in those who have taught her well. There would be no thought to giving up...or giving in. There would only be renewed determination and courageous resolve, not only to stay afloat and right-side-up, but to return safely to the launch.

Our world needs resolve, determination, courage, and an unswerving belief that we are not powerless, nor do we have to live in fear. There is no stronger nor more compelling force in the world than compassion. Throughout history, those who have changed the world for the better were not the paranoid nor the revengeful. They were not the ones who would shrink away and isolate themselves from formidable challenges. They were not those who would build walls, or turn away (or deport) the homeless and the helpless, or dismiss something as threatening as climate change as "just weather". They were not those whose ability to love was ever "trumped" by the fears they chose to embrace.

Those whose lives enrich the world are the ones who live with compassion and who never, ever, give up on wanting the best for those with whom we share this planet, and most especially those who are most vulnerable. They are the ones we will remember forever, for their example and their courageous leadership against any and all odds.

The fact is, living our lives with compassion makes us strong. 

It is, admittedly, a world of wind and swell, and sometimes terrible storm...but compassion's "muscle memory" will propel us, and ensure our safe passage as a human family. 

It's the "paddle" we must never let go.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What's with the "Grumpy Sea Lion" of Saltspring Island?

There's a sea lion out there who just won't leave us alone. It's getting a little annoying. Frankly, he's become rather mean-spirited. We've haven't seen other sea kayaks out there for a while, so it's difficult to corroborate our tale with other paddler's experiences.

We have no pictures...when this guy shows up, he's usually astern, in our "blind spot". He then overtakes, and usually, with some "drama". Needless to say, we're reluctant to take our hands off the paddle when there may be a need for a quick brace as he (in our vivid imaginations) attempts to capsize us. And even when held "hostage", on the shore, it never occurred to either of us to take out a camera...we were too mesmerised with his irritating behaviour, which could certainly be characterised as uncongenial and contrarian.

We've identified this guy as a Stellar sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus). He has a very broad chest and neck, high forehead, and what looks like a mane of hair.  Stellars grow to about 10 feet in length and can weigh in up to 2,470 lb! To compare, our kayaks are around 17.5 feet  long and weigh in at around 50 lbs. 
The only pinnipeds larger are two species of elephant seals and the walrus. Just paddle away from him you say? Well, they cruise at around 11 mph and, in a burst of speed, can achieve 25 miles per hour. Us? Not so much. On a good day, we paddle about 3 mph, although a short lived "burst of speed" might register 6 mph - with the tide, current, a tail wind, following waves, a high energy lunch, and a good measure of adrenaline. 

Stellar sea lion: Image courtesy
The first time we encountered one another, several weeks ago, we weren't even on the water. We were taking a small break, enjoying a cup of steaming, green tea on the "secret beach", over on Saltspring Island. 

"Himself" came cruising by, barking and growling...and baring his teeth. Circling back, he came progressively closer to the beach...still barking and growling. After what felt like a rather long time, our new pal, who seemed satisfied that he had given us a well-deserved scolding, submerged and swam away. He subsequently surfaced every so often, and glanced back with what looked like a rather menacing expression. Grumpy or what? Interestingly, male sea lions only live half as long as females. Perhaps a consequence of a lifetime of grumpiness? Hmmm...there may be a point to this story after all.

Once he was out of sight, we slid the boats back into the water, and proceeded towards the ferry terminal at Vesuvius. Although we remained vigilant, the rest of the paddle was uneventful...and unaccompanied.

A week later, we were back across the Narrows, investigating the nooks and crannies, and listening to the contemplative "music" of the the ample run off from recent rains.

Suddenly, out of nowhere - and only several boat lengths away - the very large (and now familiar) brown body launched violently out of the sea, twisted in the air and performed a very good imitation of a whale was our pal again, now, clearly showing off. He may have been having a good time, but it wasn't the least bit funny to us. He showed those impressive teeth, growled, gave us a "don't let me see you out here again" look...and swam off, with one self-satisfied glance back. Feeling a little "territorial" there, buddy?

So, this past week, we were back...yep, and so was the Stellar sea lion. As we paddled along the same shore, over at Saltspring, he surfaced, grumpy as usual. This time, he swam somewhat aggressively towards the kayaks, pushing a substantial bow wave, stopping about twenty feet away. He then repeated this interesting manoeuvre several times, "herding" us towards a small cove where we elected to egress the boats and wait this silliness out. Sheesh!

In the meantime, we discovered a most interesting jellyfish-like "thing". Anyone have any idea what it is?

No longer the focus of our attention, our now-faithful "paddling partner" swam off, undoubtedly feeling very smug. So what's with the "Grumpy Sea Lion" of Saltspring Island? 

Paddling back out from the beach, a blue heron, who had been watching the whole affair from his perch on the rocks, gave one last glance in our direction...and lifted off. It's repeated, sustained, and harsh awwk, is perhaps the nastiest and grumpiest sound of any bird, anywhere, as one writer suggested, like a velociraptor charging! 

I love nature. ;)