Each year, as part of my annual holidays, my husband and I reconnect with nature through a week of wilderness kayaking. Taking all the necessities of life with us – which does not include a cell phone! – we travel to parts of BC whose beauty and ruggedness take our breaths away. Though we live without the creature comforts of our daily city life (save for coffee, chocolate and a good book, of course!), we spend this week reconnecting with things that matter most to us.
In the 8 summers we’ve taken to the waters on these trips, we have spent some time in some spectacular places. From the Broken Group on the west coast of Vancouver Island to Desolation Sound, from Read and West Redonda Islands to most recently exploring the Islands off the north shore of Vancouver Island. All these places are unique, they are all remarkable, and we’ve found them to be restorative and spectacular.
There are many things I love about these trips but high on the list is that during this week, our minds are not focused on deadlines or appointments or emails galore, but instead on the simplicity of life in the natural world. Our attention is on the basics – food, clothing and shelter. When your day is reduced to these fundamentals, you are both busy yet free to use your time to simply be.
Living simply within the natural world also means you must ebb and flow with her rhythms. You can have all the plans in the world for your trip but how easily or possible it is to achieve them depends on how well you match your plans with nature’s rhythms. That fact is a lesson that I’ve really learned in the last 8 years.
I remember our first overnight trip to the Broken Group in 2003. My husband was an intermediate kayaker and very experienced canoeist from his Ontario days. I, on the other hand, was a novice kayaker who had never done an overnight kayak trip. I still remember how frightened I was as each tiny wave or small swell hit my boat. After many years on the water, I’ve come to learn what the waves and swells mean, and how to use their power to make kayaking easier. It’s about working with nature, not against her. Learning more about waves, winds, currents and tides has meant that we shape our day to what nature is doing rather than trying to force our schedule on her. The result is we go further, see more of the region we’re exploring and enjoy our paddling that much more.
The varied emotions we experience on our trips are more than I can put down here. But on this trip alone, they ranged from the peacefulness of seeing deer feeding on kelp on the beach, to joy at seeing frolicking sea otters, to wonder at seeing salmon – large and small – jumping for hours on end, to the absolute fear of finding a black bear less that 15 feet from our tent (thankfully the velcro sound from the bear spray being unclipped was enough to encourage the bear along!). But all these memorable experiences have been possible because we’ve put ourselves in a place where we can be – for a short time – a part of nature’s rhythms.
These trips are to us a gift and a sanctuary in our busy lives. But the lessons we learned are the ones we as a society must learn too. We must live with the rhythms of nature not fight them. If we don’t, then this journey we are on will continue to be a hard one, with devastating effects. But if enough of us live by this credo, then good paddling and happy, healthy days are truly ahead.