From the balcony of the room, one could be atop a giant schooner challenging the 20 – 30 mile an hour winds that fill the ocean with endless whitecaps. This jagged shoreline is relentlessly wild. Rocky points hide coves within coves. The rock is sharp and granular, the beaches packed hard with fine damp sand that never dries. The tides rush in over hundreds of yards of almost flat beach, beaches nearly devoid of shells other then the mussels that have been pried loose from the nests where multitudes grow, more than one could ever harvest or eat. There are carcasses of halibut or salmon cast overboard by fisherman who must only fish with actual fishing lines. And a peculiar type of seaweed that starts with a large, hard, air-filled head, followed by a thick rope-like arm that gradually thins as it extends 10 or 15 feet.
You can run, bicycle, even push a stroller on the hard sand. The water, at less than 50 degrees would seem a deterrent to water sports. Yet Tofino is a surfer’s paradise. You can rent a board and a wetsuit, complete with boots, gloves and a hood at anyone of 20 places. There are almost always waves. Sandy beaches extend for miles. You can always find a spot to your self. I must pass as my arm tries to heal from what is either too much paddling on my last surf trip or to much surfing on the Internet.
I take a long time to slow down. And the empty space of unstructured days reveals a deep well of exhaustion. Exhaustion layered upon itself. Exhaustion that rests deep down upon my soul. Exhaustion left unrecognized. It is easier for me to push a little harder than to slow down. It is a habitual pattern, learned from my father and then re-patterned by me into my very own obsession.
A pattern that I have a visceral reaction against resuming. Yet I also have a strong history of ignoring that visceral reaction. So much of life is habit. Habit that appears, if one is even conscious of it, to be soft, warm and comfortable in its familiarity. We mistake the repetition of patterns for life. We laugh at the dog chasing it’s tail, the mouse running so fiercely on the wheel in it’s cage, or the repetitious nature of a tern that pecks endlessly at the sand searching for little bugs. Yet we can’t see our own similar behaviors and thus don’t stop to laugh at ourselves.
Like a sandpiper diving for a minnow only she can see, it would be fiercely hard for her to pull out of the dive. The force of gravity is strong. The combined effect of comfort, lack of consciousness, mirrors that remain unlooked in, help us all ensure that most of the time we keep pecking at the sand. Never mind that a group of tasty bugs have landed a few yards up in the dune grass.
When I ask what it is that is most important for me to do. I do not know the whole answer. I may never know it all. But I do know more than enough to guide me beyond the patterns that keep me from remembering what I do know. Not actually remembering. I do remember. Quite often. That is much of what is so painful. The reflection of letting what could be slip through your fingers. Acting on what we do know is absolutely preferable to waiting until we know more. Forgetting to wake up from the fixed stare we call life is lazy. Or maybe even crazy.
Being hard on myself doesn’t help. But I do it anyway. It’s a pattern.
New patters do emerge. Meditating twice a day (instead of once.) Fish instead of meat. Lot’s of time staring off into the distance instead of incessantly reading. Not talking when I have nothing that doesn’t need to be said.
There are bald eagles in the sky. Huge salmon running at the bottom of the sea. Black bear somewhere in the woods. Millions of mussels waiting to be picked. The air is full of salty moisture. There are no streetlights in Tofino. The stars are in charge of the night.
We know roughly where we need to go. We hear many describe the same destination. In books and speeches, the same ideas appear over and over. But we lack a plan, a road map, that provides the practical solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. Not a roadmap to the next town, but to a new world.