Monday, August 29, 2016

Gentleness...strength under control, and paddling through the coccolithophorids.

Following a sunrise launch from Maple Bay, en route to Saltspring Island and Vesuvius Bay, the surface of Sansum Narrows could not have been more mirror-like. The Southern Gulf Islands make these "protected" waters but, having said that, conditions can be ferocious in strong winds. Massive logs that have escaped from timber rafts are sometimes thrown by powerful waves, well beyond the high tide line.

Paddling, and leaving the "first wake", on these rare days, is not unlike the experience of being the first out in the forest on a snowy morning...leaving the first tracks in fresh snow. There's a sense of tangible "freshness", and of an unhurried gentleness in nature.

Some years ago, I watched (with great fascination!) a John Deere excavator, weighing well over thirty tons, working near our home. There had been a light snowfall overnight, leaving a couple of inches of fluffy snow sitting on the ground. The operator had arrived before any of the other crew and had fired up the engine, preparing to begin the day's work. Engaging the powerful hydraulics, and moving the boom and the arm, he lifted the massive bucket and slowly lowered it to the snowy surface. He then began to ever-so-gently scrape away the snow...barely touching the earth itself. He was clearly enjoying himself and demonstrating remarkable expertise as a heavy equipment operator. 

Since that day, I have thought of gentleness, as "strength under control".

As the barest of breezes began to ripple the water, I thought about what a "strong" influence we human beings can have on one another, and on our fragile planet. I thought about climate change...and the drought that we have experienced here on Vancouver Island these past summers...and the algae bloom that is currently giving our waters a tropical turquoise hue. 

The latter is due to a bloom of phytoplankton, the first step in the food chain on which all marine life depends, called coccolithophores. Photosynthetic pigments within their cells, such as chlorophyll, scatter the light, and in sufficiently high enough concentrations, they colour the water. Phytoplankton are an essential and necessary part of the ecosystem, but sometimes they can be harmful to marine ecologies. It is thought this recent bloom may be due to increasing local ocean acidification...and, therefore, human activity. That's probably not good news.

Could this be another reminder to us to "touch the earth lightly", to live with gentleness? I think so. 

Bringing our remarkable human strengths, under control, could be the greatest gift of all to the planet we share. 


  1. Looks like a beautiful and gentle way to start the morning. I love your definition of gentleness and shall remember it.

    1. Thank you for that, Linda, always appreciate you coming by. It truly was a nice day on the water. It'll be interesting to see if the colour has changed with the cooler temperatures. Warm wishes to you.

    2. I like that definition of gentleness Duncan - and "strength" is really nothing without control.

      PS - For most excavator operators, scraping snow gently away as you describe might mean that he'd left something really, really important on the ground before leaving work the previous evening!


    3. You know, I didn't think of that, Ian. :) Goodness, it must have been really important...and REALLY robust! Great to hear from you. Warm wishes to you and LInda.