The Rhythms and Awe of Nature, by KJ
If you live near the ocean, think for a moment what time the high and low tides will be tomorrow. Wherever you live, can you tell me where the moon is in its cycle? Do you know (without Google) the exact time the sun will rise and set tomorrow? What direction and speed were the winds today? If you’re like me, in my normal urban life, I can at best approximate those events. On this trip on the ocean in our canoe, those rhythms of nature became part of our daily awareness and experience.
One way we lived in that rhythm was that we planned our trip around the southerly tidal ebbs and northerly flooding tides, so that, for the most part, we could get a gentle push from (rather than fight) the tidal currents. What we couldn’t arrange with Mother Nature was to always arrive at and depart from our campsites at high tide. As we paddled south, we left at high tide to follow the ebbing tide, but that meant getting to camp at low tide. As we canoed back north, the opposite was true.
This presented some challenges for us as we had some long carries of our gear and canoe up or down rocky beaches to our campsites.
Also, wherever we camped, we needed to be sure we were above the high-tide line if we didn’t want to wake up swimming in our tent.
We also followed the sun’s daily cycle. For the most part, we got up when it got light, about 5:30 or 6 a.m., and went to bed when it got dark, about 9:30 or 10 p.m. This rhythm worked well with our daily routine of paddling early in the morning to avoid afternoon winds, lounging in or exploring our magical campsite areas in the afternoon, taking time to cook wonderful meals in the early evening, and going to sleep soon after sunset following our full, eventful and sensory-rich days in nature.
Being in nature for 12 days has also helped me understand better why animal, bird and fish symbols are so important to First Peoples. I’ll never forget that morning on North Beach on Calvert Island when a curious seal stared at me from the water as I stood on the shore wondering how we would launch our canoe into the crashing waves. I imagined the seal was telling me all would be well, and I actually felt myself relaxing as I envisioned his natural ease and grace navigating the turbulent ocean waters.
One morning, we came upon a raft of napping sea otters floating on their backs, feet pointing in the air like guests relaxing on pool floats at a resort.
Another time, on one of our walks, we saw sandlings feeding on the wet shore and playfully riding the sun-kissed waves as they washed up on shore.
From the canoe, we watched an eagle deftly swooping down to catch a fish and saw many sea gulls atop drifting logs as if they were ‘paddle birding’ or simply found them and hawks roosting in nearby trees.
We were amazed every day watching salmon jumping high out of the water like Olympic high-jumpers going for gold. For the whole trip, we felt in awe of the wonders of the animal world.
Now that we’re back home and already busy with city and work life, I miss the very direct and daily connection to the animals and to the elements of nature: tides, sun, moon, winds and waves. I’ll always value those special times and try to remember to pay more attention to the beautiful rhythms of nature.