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A personal journal entry for day 3

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 6 months ago

Insect Island

August 24 2007



Incense smell of powdery Red Cedar ashes and sawn firewood. The variety of this species found here is unique: tight grained, dense yet light. A wrist-size log burns for half an hour.



Siesta time after the midday hike to the south end of the island on soft springy forest floor free of brush, up and down rocky ridges through bush untracked since loggers desecrated it 100 years ago, but probably a familiar backyard to Indians for millennia.


This morning after late breakfast of coffee and porridge, dishwashing, and water gathering at the stagnant creek nearby, we listened to Murray’s poem of the day and did stretches for 40 minutes, each person teaching his favorite to the group. The mood gets mellower as the days roll by and the weather stays mild and friendly. Here on Insect Island, there are no bugs.



We happened upon this place yesterday after a stiff four-hour paddle from our first two- night campsite on the Burwood Islets. Under lowering skies and patchy fog, across wide channels and amidst narrow passages that left me utterly lost, Rob my taciturn co-kayaker coached me on proper technique he learned as a member of a Vancouver outrigger canoe club. He told me to keep both arms rigid, making a triangle with the paddle shaft and to move only from the waist, using abdominal and lateral lower back muscles—the “core” that I had been urged to rely on by a physiotherapist last year. Move slowly and with less effort, feel the boat pulled through the water with each stroke, dig deep and quick with the tip of the paddle, he’d repeat quietly at long intervals. I concentrated on the motion, fearful of injuring muscles that chronically ached, constrained by the life jacket I had left inside the spray skirt to cushion my sore back. After a while I would feel the rhythm, a kind of figure-eight movement that reminded me of the synchronized paddlers I had seen many years ago at the Lund-Sliammon dedication ceremony. But most of the time I felt awkward and scared.



An hour or so into Fife Channel, we pulled up to the lead kayak and shared some smoke. Afterwards my movements became more fluid, but the pain in my left hip joint resulting from immobility worsened. I fished two soggy Ibuprofens out of my shirt pocket, swallowed them with saliva and continued paddling with eyes closed, coordinating my stroke with drawing and expelling breath. I was getting soaked by the water trickling down the paddle falling into the grooves of the life jacket. If a headwind should come up or it started to rain I would face a serious challenge.



Once when I opened my eyes, a vision of exactly the kind of movement I was striving for came out of the fog. On a big aluminum boat with his back to us appeared a blond crew-cutted man with huge shoulders and upper arms wearing an orange parka. Hand over hand, rocking from side to side in a figure-eight motion, he was pulling something heavy and deep out of the ocean—a net--with movements as sleek and flowing as a seal’s. My hip ache went from a moan to a scream as we approached him. John was negotiating to buy prawns. The boy’s face was a little puffed, smiling and open. He said he worked for the salmon farm up the arm and was out fishing for the crew on his off time. He offered to give us his last net full of prawns for nothing, but agreed to take a twenty-dollar beer allowance. After dumping five pounds into one of Ian’s dry bags, he thanked us profusely and disappeared into the fog.



Unable to share in the general rejoicing over the new dinner prospect because of a shellfish allergy, I lapsed back into my rhythmic stupor, which combined pleasure in the flow of my paddling, amazement that I felt no fatigue or pain in my arms or back and panic at the damage to my hip. Passing round a corner through a tight channel we came upon a narrow clamshell beach at the base of a banked midden at least twenty feet high, surmountable by a steep slippery trail. We pulled up and exploded into activity—building a fire ring, sawing wood, unpacking the kayaks, cutting steps into the bank, hanging wet clothing out to dry as the sun started to come out and preparing lunch. Not a great campsite, but a place to stop.



As soon as I was able to move around, the hip pain disappeared and I climbed to the top of the bank, where others had already deposited gear and pitched tents. I wandered down a well-traveled trail above which rose two more flat terraces carved from the mountain of shells. A hundred yards down and around two corners, the bank protruded into the water on three sides, creating a spacious platform with a fire ring in the middle, at the convergence point of three channels heading north, east and south and a view down one to the snow covered mountains of Vancouver Island. This must have been the seat of the monarch, where he’d preside in state surrounded by wives, reviewing the parade of canoes approaching from all directions with tribute of mussels, prawns, and clams. I ran back to the landing spot shouting, “home’s around the corner.”




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