Driftwood

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It has been a quiet afternoon here at God’s Pocket. The sky is overcast and low, and we have the cozy feeling of being “socked in” by the fog and mist. Our hosts, Bill and Annie, who are the co-owners of this scuba and kayak resort, left mid-morning for what we have affectionately called “boat-a-palooza.” They are transporting a Grand Banks motor yacht belonging to friends who live in Bellingham, Washington from God’s Pocket to Bella Bella, BC, where their friends will pick up their boat. We are caretaking God’s Pocket until July 2nd.

It has been a bit of transition, with comings and goings, and now the quiet. I have had a sense of needing to relax and float a bit, and move with the tides like driftwood. We had a kayak charter for most of this week: 12 kayaking guests and two kayak guides. Bill, Annie, David and I shared the work in running God’s Pocket with help from the guides, both of whom had been here many times. The guests were all from Alberta, and relished their time in the area in spite of the frequent showers. They were a diverse and interesting group, and just very nice, warm people. We told them they fit perfectly into our general experience of Canadians (very nice); they asked if we were considering moving here given the political scene in the US…

I am enjoying being here in BC, and appreciated the daily routine of the charter and teamwork with Bill, Annie and David. Still the world news has (rightfully) intruded: I have been preoccupied with the Brexit vote. I did think the vote would be close but hoped that the “Remain” vote would prevail. As I have with the tone of the US presidential campaign, I have been stunned and dispirited by the xenophobic rhetoric that marked the British decision to leave the European Union. As much as I see and sympathize with the dislocations created by the global economy, and appreciate the terrible repercussions of income inequality, I can only think that facing inward and away from other nations and people will not result in the change that many are calling for. I fear that the same feelings are very much at play in the US.  Sigh…

So I am “low energy” this afternoon, not that there’s a call for my energy to be high! I’ll be washing the room sheets and remaking the beds over the next week (we can only run the drier when the generator is on, which puts laundry on a staggered scheduled).  A little bit of structure and focused activity works for me, enhancing the choices and experience of the downtime. While we have a few other chores to prepare the resort for the next kayak charter which starts on July 3rd, we are mostly at liberty to relax and explore.

We’ve had rich wildlife experiences lately. We have seen humpback whales out front in the pass most days, sometimes several times in a day. (I’ve attached below a link to my Instagram account post of a short video of a whale swimming past us as we sat in the skiff one evening). We’ve seen several individual otter, floating with their flippers out of the water, the telltale sign that they aren’t a log or driftwood. I saw two minks this morning, one ambling across the deck, and another a few minutes later, making her way from the water line at low tide with a crab in her mouth.

We headed into Port Hardy yesterday to get provisions for the week, leaving at low tide, and I said we should look for wolves who might be hunting at the shore during low tide. No sooner said, we saw a lone sea wolf on the rocky shore.  Stares were exchanged, deepening the thrill of the sighting, and then he turned and made his way up into the bushes and disappeared.

This afternoon as we stood on the lower dock, we heard a few short, high pitched wolf howls. On a lark, David howled back. The response was several longer, more pronounced howls, one which seemed to come from our island just across the cove, and one which seemed to come from across the pass from Balaklava Island. (The low cloud cover is excellent for transmitting sound.)  Wolf howls are magical: rare, haunting and beautiful.

I have been nurturing an idea for building shelves out of driftwood logs and planks for our condo, and want to explore the potential. As if on cue, the universe (and the ocean) delivered overnight to just under the deck an extraordinary, weather- and water-worn cedar log. It must be over 20 feet long and 20 inches in diameter. David tied it up to the dock and we’ll wait until high tide to pull it near the rocks on one side of the cove.  At low tide the log will settle, as if on rock sawhorses, for examination and some potential chainsaw activity.

Tomorrow we’ll take whatever the weather brings – a break in the rain might be nice – and head off in the skiff across the pass to Nigei Island. There’s an inlet there called Port Alexander, perfect for hiking and beach combing. It is a treasure trove of logs and driftwood, and the occasional wolf.

Love,
Susan

PS – Here is a link to my humpie (humpback whale) video (36 seconds long) on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BGvjriAqM6W/?taken-by=dancingonthewayhome

I post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes on Fridays, or like today, Saturdays… Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

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Crafting Joy

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We made the first of our numerous stops on our archipelago of friends in the Pacific Northwest, stretching southward to home in San Francisco. It began with a great visit with our friend Elizabeth in Coupeville on Whidbey Island. One of the highlights was a hike on Friday morning around Fort Casey, a battlement that was built after World War I and used for training through WWII, and is now a state park. Fort Casey is on a point of land that looks out across Admiralty Inlet, just south of the Juan de Fuca Strait, to Port Townsend. The point is wrapped by fast and unusual currents that bring enormous amounts of driftwood to its shores, making for a fun beachcombing adventure.

On Saturday, we wandered through Musselfest, the annual celebration of Penn Cove mussels in Coupeville. We were too late to get tasting tickets, which would have allowed us a small cup of mussel chowder at the many vendors in town, as well as a vote for the best chowder of 2016. For a consolation prize, we settled for some mussel chowder, mussels in saffron cream, and wine. Later that afternoon, we took a boat tour of the mussel farm in Penn Cove, complete with “aqua-cam” and learned the farm is one of the first and most successful aquaculture ventures in the US. The business was begun in 1975 by a retired serviceman after witnessing similar ventures in Asia. It has grown to include oyster and clam farming and remains a sustainable, environmentally sound industry. Those Penn Cove mussels are also delicious!

Our adventures on Whidbey were fun, but the best part was spending time with our friend. We felt welcome, at home, and much loved. We left the Island early on Sunday morning, headed for our next destination, Seattle. I felt tired from the loss of the hour with daylight savings time, a little sad at another farewell, and somewhat dislocated by our travel and frequent moves. And yet: the purpose of our travels after leaving God’s Pocket was to see many of our friends in the Pacific Northwest, always a reason for joy.

We were headed to Seattle to stay with our friends Richard and Jana, with whom we SCUBA dive with every other year in September at God’s Pocket Resort off Vancouver Island, and with whom we enjoy good food and wine whenever possible. Two years ago we added a week of salmon fishing in advance of the diving, and will do so again this year. Richard was one of David’s roommates at MIT, so their history is a long one.

Jana graciously invited me to join her friends at a monthly gathering she calls “Crafternoon” – a three-hour block of time for a group of people to focus on an artistic or craft project – and I was both intrigued and anxious about saying yes. Jana is a graphic designer and artist, and her friends all have art-related jobs or passion projects. I worried about fitting in, being a stranger to the group of long-term friends, and of not being artistic enough. I kept these worries to myself, and realized that the universe was giving me an opportunity to do what I had explicitly intended for this year: to explore and deepen my creativity.

So, I did say ‘yes’ and expressed my enthusiasm, feeling it override any residual anxiety. When we all sat around the table, each working on something creative, I enjoyed listening to the chat, sometimes adding a thought or comment. One of the women had also been at Musselfest, and I had seen her Art Car on display. Mostly I just focused on being present, appreciating the ideas and craft at the table, and feeling comfortable with the process of being in this creative group. (I worked on a beading project I had taken to Canada but hadn’t worked on at all.) I look forward to implementing ‘crafternoon’ with my friends in the Bay Area.

That evening, Jana and I met up with David and Richard for drinks and dinner at a wonderful small plate restaurant, Manolin, in the Fremont area of Seattle. The meal was a perfect cap to a day of creativity, learning, and friendship. Each dish was multi-layered and full of flavor, and we had fun guessing at some of the ingredients, remarking on the ingenuity of putting them together in the same dish.

I delighted in being with David and our friends, chatting and enjoying a fine meal and a great wine. I thought about my sadness from the morning, and my trepidation at doing something new with a group of strangers. I had found a small thread of enthusiasm and tied myself to it, releasing fear and disappointment and replacing it with joy and fellowship. I had allowed all that was good in the day to surround me. And indeed, it was a very good day.

Love,
Susan

Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye, in addition to a shot of our “front yard” every day at or after 5pm. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

On The Surface

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frosted nudibranch  ~courtesy flicker.com

With the return of divers to God’s Pocket, I started thinking about getting in the water myself. I was pretty sure I was unlikely to dive on this particular visit, but Bill, one of the co-owners and our host, encouraged us to bring our equipment so we’d have the option.

The idea of diving up here, in a neoprene wetsuit rather than a dry suit no less, takes me time to warm to. I have been here for a week of diving at least five times over the years, and yet still experience a degree of anxiety about getting in the water. First, it is cold, very cold. Second, there are often currents, occasionally strong ones, both horizontal and vertical, that can steal one’s sense of control underwater. Third, we are often diving sheer walls and the light doesn’t penetrate to depth; it is like diving at night.

I have had transcendent dives and experienced the joy of floating in a kaleidoscope of life and color. I have seen remarkable creatures and immense beauty. I have had frightening and challenging dives, when my equipment and I weren’t in agreement, when it was dark and cold and the currents were strong, and all I could think of was when I could get back on the boat.

Over the years, I’ve made some peace with my ambivalence. I pay attention to how I feel and choose which dive sites I want to experience. The Nakwakto Rapids which flow around Tremble Island, and nourish the extraordinary and beautiful large red-lipped goose barnacles at about 30-40 feet, is a good example. The small island sits at the confluence of three extraordinary ocean currents, noted in the Guinness Book of Records as the strongest in the world. Once under water, you swim against the current in one direction, trying to enjoy the barnacles, and then turn around a point and are swept forward by another current at your back. The dive often culminates by being both pushed forward and pulled up to the surface in water swirling like a washing machine. Beautiful. Exhilarating. Extreme. Once was enough for me.

Bill has a general rule for divers and non-divers alike: always come on the boat. Even if you don’t dive, you will see and experience beauty. When we come in September, we often see humpback whales and bald eagles, and Dall’s porpoises will occasionally draft off the bow of the speeding boat on the way home. You don’t know what you might miss: the rare sighting of an orca pod or a raft of otter in the distance. Being on the surface can be as remarkable as a dive.

Yesterday, I decided to dive in the bay in front of God’s Pocket. It is 20-30 feet deep at high tide so light and tank time wouldn’t be limited. There are wonders to be seen right below the dock here: crabs and shrimp, sea anemones, soft corals, shrimp, sponges, scallops, nudibranchs (colorful creatures that are part of the sea slug, or gastropoda, class), kelp, jellyfish and starfish, to name a bunch. I wrestled into my wetsuit (which was more snug than usual as a result of my year-end weight gain), met David on the dock, and got ready to go. After managing a small series of missteps, my regulator started to free flow. I sat on the dock, fully outfitted for a dive, trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey while David tried to repair it several different ways. I felt discouraged and demoralized by how complicated it was getting ready, by the tighter-than-usual wetsuit, by my helplessness at addressing my technical and equipment challenges. And then the regulator blew out completely under the pressure from the air in the tank.

The broken regulator put the question of my diving on this visit to rest. Determined not to waste my efforts at getting suited up and wanting to rise above my disappointment with the whole situation, I decided to snorkel. I wouldn’t get as close to some things near the bottom, but I had a great view to life on the rocky outcrops as I kicked around. I was delighted to see a frosted nudibranch, which bears a striking resemblance to the Sydney Opera House (see picture at top). I spent some time looking at the array of tiny life growing on the ropes and chains that keep the docks in place: miniscule and colorful shrimp, purple and green kelp, baby scallops, all visited by small tubesnout fish.

Sometimes, you can’t or shouldn’t go deep. Being on the surface, with eyes open and attention focused, can be full of wonder and more than enough.

With love,
Susan

Tucked Into God’s Pocket

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We drove out of San Francisco during a break in the rain on Sunday, January 10, and arrived in Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, British Columbia on Wednesday, January 13, our car so full we couldn’t see out the back. Just how much gear and food do you need for two people for more than a month by yourselves on an small island? Certainly the rain gear will come in handy!

We’re tucked into God’s Pocket (here), a scuba and kayak resort in a Canadian marine provincial park, closed for the winter. Except for the day we arrived, when the sunset sky was streaked with pink and purple, the clouds have been low on the water and rain has been frequent. I have dreamed of this time for several years: time to find my own rhythm, to sleep as long as I need or want, to read without deadlines or guilt, and to eat clean and to move as my body asks. I felt sure that after my last day of work on January 8 that sleep would overtake me; I was ready to be bed-bound for weeks. And while we are cozy in the main house, feeding a wood stove, and taking our time about everything, we are also slowly finding some routine, some structure in our days. The generator has to be run twice a day, we check that the docks are all still tethered daily, and have decided that our mornings feel best after yoga.

As I transitioned from from my last career, a decision five years in the making, I was surprised that the gremlins of self-doubt still came around occasionally.  Sometimes they called me to doubt my contributions at work and my decision to leave. Every so often, they seemed to be especially mean, mocking my vision of a more creative, heart-centered life and profession. Then the whirlwind of packing up my office, saying goodbye to colleagues and friends, and organizing that darn car full of stuff overtook the gremlins: too little sleep and too much to do to doubt. All good, right?  I’ve had this idea for a blog about my transition and this journey for more than a year, and yet just today have I found some courage in (maybe) getting out my very first post…I wanted to believe that way up and away here, with few responsibilities, no formal role to play, no people to please, that the gremlins would lose their wind and be calmed. Gremlins, indeed, follow you where ever you go — noticing them, however, does seem to rob them of their insidious power – as does recognizing their role in urging us forward. So here it is, my first post on Dancing On The Way Home. Apparently, I’ve been dancing with the gremlins all day!

Time now to go outside and see which water fowl are paddling the waters near the dock, count the number of cormorants on the breakwater, and see if I can spot the great blue heron that has made the cove his favorite hangout before I scare him into flight.

With love,

Susan

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