Sunday, August 05, 2012

The feeling of closeness with the natural world...

Gabriola's shore - magnificent sculpture.
3.7 nautical miles across the water, from the perspective of the City of Nanaimo, the "Harbour City", these cliffs on Gabriola Island seem nondescript and grey. But from the kayak cockpit, they are a magnificent sculpture - dramatically textured from tens of thousands of years of glaciation, rain, waves, freezing, melting, and the diversity of life that lives in the nooks and crannies of what was once seabed sediment thrust upwards by unimaginable tectonic forces. The multi-coloured sandstones and shales are striking to both the eye and to the senses, they seem almost fluid - and in the context of geological time, they are.

How our perspective on life and on the natural world changes and sharpens when we get "up close and personal". That's why, in part, I feel so passionate about being on the water and on the trails. You are not a spectator. 

On the water or on the trail, you are fully a participant with nature. The waves move you in multiple dimensions. The wind facilitates your passage or resists your every effort. On the trail, you must side step and jump over the roots and rocks that would trip you up. You smell the vegetation and the forest floor, still damp from the cool of the night. On both the water and on the trail, you notice tiny things that would go unseen if you were not amongst them, and part of their world, connected by virtue of shared space and time. In the process of discovery, you find strength and a deep abiding peace and respite from what has worried you. Ideas flow, solutions come to mind, you feel refreshed. You know that you are part of something much bigger, much grander than yourself - and you feel deep relief that you really are not the centre of the universe.

It is in getting "up close and personal" that we truly discover the world of which we are a part and that sustains our every breath. It also convinces us to care. Rachel Carson ("Silent Spring") put it this way:

"The more clearly we can focus our attention 
on the wonders and realities of the Universe,
the less taste we shall have for destruction."

This, of course, is a very good thing.



  1. Dear Duncan and Joan,
    As someone newly arrived to live on Gabriola and newly smitten with the joys of kayaking, I must tell you how much I am enjoying your blog. Your observations, enthusiasm and reflections continue your ministry so beautifully. Thank you for sharing.
    Blessings to you both.

  2. Thank you, Janice, and welcome to this lovely island. It is, for us, a part-time home and a place where we have discovered so much natural beauty on the sea, around the shores, and on the trails. It is also a place we love to share. Your words give encouragement. I hope we will meet paddling one day. Again, thank you. Duncan.

  3. Well said Duncan, the feeling of absorption into an environment is something which never fails to uplift me whether on the hill or the water. Some may see it as a bit New Age, but for those who experience it, there can be nothing more rewarding.

    Kind Regards

  4. Understood, Ian. And I think the blend of experience on both land and water environments enriches "the feeling of absorption". Thanks and warm wishes from Joan and I. Duncan.

  5. I agree with you Duncan about being up close and personal and even more personal than being on the ocean waters is being "in" in the ocean waters allowing the water to cover you and carry you while its waves splash up into your should try it sometime!

  6. Now if that's a "dare", just won. :) Glad you're enjoying being "in" the Salish Sea - I seem content to paddle on its "roof". Haha. D.