The rain that’s been predicted all week has finally arrived, and it is an outpouring from the skies. We sleep in, a welcome chill day after many days of early mornings and windy paddling. I read my moss book in bed and look out my tent window at the giant cedar, so happy to relax in my sleeping bag as the rain pummels the top of my tent.
Eventually I make it out to breakfast, homemade crisp with apples Amy saved and roasted (WHAT) with toasted pecans and delicious hot coffee. (!!!!!)
They are the best.
The rain lets up for 45 minutes just as I sit down to do a kundalini yoga practice on a private beach, then begins again as I walked back. (WHAT). I follow Kamil’s advice for meditation:
Meditation is so easy. You just wait for the tunnel to appear in your forehead, then follow the tunnel and there you will be, journeying, flying through the clouds and all the dimensions, laughing with the other beings.
I laughed when he said that (it is not that easy!), but when I sat down to meditate after my kundalini practice I did exactly that: I began by sending love to all the friends and family I could think of, scattered across Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, New York, across Canada, USA, Europe, India, New Zealand, watching their sweet faces appear in my mind’s eye and then disappear once I had sent love their way (a practice that was so relaxing and joy-creating). Then I saw the tunnel appear. Moving through the tunnel, I arrived in 4 successive worlds, each with its own landscape and lessons…what an experience! Kamil the Soviet Indigenous healer…such simple wisdom shared always through laughter!
I wander back and read my moss book under a tarp, ever-distracted by diving birds and the heads of curious seals popping up on the water. Amy rounds all interested folks up for an “intertidal walk”, as the tide is at its lowest. There are so many alien creatures I feel like I have ventured in my meditation to an actual other planet.
I’m shocked how much water-plants feed on each other – purple sea urchins (my favourite because of their bright purple exterior and perfect double-helix lace interior) destroyed giant kelp forests after sea otter populations (which kept the urchins in check) were destroyed by hunters.
In the afternoon we hide from the rain and I try to convince people that moss is really interesting with facts from my borrowed book.
Amy and Devjeet prepare my all time favourite lunch, soup and grilled cheese.
We have a mini ecstatic dance on the beach, then venture into the giant, wet forest to fill our water at the spring again.
As long as the temperature stays above 3 degrees Celsius, the evergreen trees here continue to grow, which is why many of the biggest trees in North America are only found here. Sitka spruce can tower to 90 metres (300 feet) and live over a thousand years. Red alder fills in the gaps after a windstorm or logging creates holes in the forest. Bacteria that grow in alder roots transforms nitrogen into nutrients small plants need, creating conditions for more complex life to grow.
And then there’s the cedar. Bill Reid described it perfectly:
“Oh, the cedar tree! If mankind in his infancy had prayed for the perfect substance for all materials and aesthetic needs, an indulgent god could have provided nothing better.”
Before the introduction of deer, salal, huckleberry, salmonberry, devil’s club, and tons of species of ferns grew all over the place here, plus dozens of wildflowers. Bears and eagles drop eaten salmon carcasses onto the forest floor, where the nutrients fertilize the giant trees. One bear can move as many as 700 salmon (1600 kg) up to 150 m from a stream (!!!) nourishing all the trees in the vicinity. Grizzlies used to inhabit the islands, but now only the Haida Gwaii black bear lives here, its big jaws and teeth adapted to eating mussels unlike its eastern cousins.
Now deer eat everything, leaving just moss everywhere.
There is so much fractal moss (the growth patterns follow the Fibonacci sequence…you could teach so much math in this forest!!!! Amy and I nerd out endlessly on lesson plan possibilities). Click the photos to make them bigger if you want to nerd out like us…
My friends lick a banana slug because it makes your tongue go numb, a defense mechanism against predators (because they couldn’t close their numb mouths and would stop eating). I think it’s a trick to get suckers to lick a slug until I try it myself.
We find a 1000 year old cedar and have a final silly photo shoot with it.
Our closing dinner together is Swiss Cheese Fondue, which we eat around the fire in the lightest rain of the afternoon.
The night ends with a trip debrief with my new favourite question: “If you could write a postcard to anyone about our trip, who would you write to, what would the photo be, and what would you write?”