I’m laptopping you from a rainforest perch overlooking a sweep of winter beach on Vancouver Island’s West Coast. Evening’s high tide will rescue the kelp whips, sea grasses and defiant squirters below the sand. The Lennard Island lighthouse winks from behind her misty clag. Peter and I have examined Frank Island’s microcosmic aquariums, hopped each miniature stream, inhaled the driftwood bonfires, and joined in spontaneous awe with other jubilant winter storm gawkers. At sea’s edge, I remember a nearby place, and twenty years ago:
A small group of kindred nature lovers were three days into a weeklong hiking odyssey known as Canada’s West Coast Trail. After slugging through dense forest trails, cliff climbs, ropes ties, cable-car ravine crossings, tidal surges and a few hundred ladders, our group poured out of the woods and onto a strand socked with low lying cloud. Out there stood a cluster of cheerful little mounds — baby islets crowned with evergreens laid flat by prevailing winds, now monochromatic in the fog. The beach was hard-packed under the low sky. Dream-like and damp, it was grey on grey on grey; cool, with a zig-zagging pattern of tidal ebb and flow. We dropped our packs on the sand.
Dad squeezed my shoulder. “Look at it, look at it,” he said. “I mean the material.” He had tears in his eyes. Without room or brawn for paint boxes on our seven-day trek, we made peace with our seven-pound camera lenses and blossomed into a shooting party. I thought about my own moments of recognition, from a life list of great paintables, and the epic journeys from which they might appear.
“Never lose the first impression which has moved you,” said Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. When Claude Monet noticed the village of Giverny from a train window, he made a decision to live out his days there. He later said that everything he ever earned went into his Giverny garden. “I love you because you are you,” he wrote to his work. Artists and their subjects are the star-crossed lovers of the world. They recognize each other on impact. Making the discovery on human steam, fueled by the spirit to get up and down the ladders, makes the most eventful love affair. “What your heart thinks great is great. The soul’s response is always right,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Would that one could live forever on this rocky outstation of the Pacific.
P.S. As our year closes, we consider resolutions, or mark our moments of recognition. You can show your own resolve or simply comment by scrolling down to our new and improved forum. As a community, we might just keep safe each other’s love affair.
Esoterica: “Rest not! Life is sweeping by; go dare before you die. / Something mighty and sublime, leave behind to conquer time.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
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