There are days when I want few words and a lot of walking in nature. I’m very fortunate to live in a city that is nudged up against nature everywhere you turn: mountain trails studded with rocks that lead to spectacular views; canyons with so many shades of green they seem unreal but to the people who live here; flat river deltas with herons, eagles, ducks, geese, kingfishers, red winged blackbirds and many more. It’s as common to see an eagle soaring as it is to see a robin; something visitors find amazing.
I have lived and travelled across Canada, but the West Coast is my heartland. It was an Ontario friend who introduced that concept to me. We were looking out on a deep green lake in Southern Ontario at the end of a summer, and when she heard I grew up in Vancouver, she asked about it. She admitted she wasn’t that interested in visiting; the ocean didn’t draw her. Canadian shield country, she said, this is my heart land. I’d never heard the term before but I recognized it. The West Coast is mine.
It was on the coast that I saw my first arbutus tree and fell in love with the smooth green and red skin, and rubbery leaves. It was on the coast that I climbed in and out of sandstone caves as if they were a playground. When I lived far away and returned to visit as an adult I saw them for their stunning and silky beauty.
This morning the plan was to see if we could get a string of geocaches in the Lower Seymour Demonstration Forest. There were fifteen on a looped trail, and optimists we are, we hoped to get them all. They were put out by a cacher who is logical and decent in his hides. Geocaching is the ultimate game of hide and seek, but some people try to be too clever and end up frustrating their seekers- you’ll see it reflected in the cache’s records (log history).
A few minutes into the hike, the phrase Sunday morning spiritual came to mind, because we were in the midst of a forest lit with morning sun that shone brilliantly through threads of moss, tiny holes in leaves where you could see a jagged insect mouth had been; and near the water, skunk cabbage leaves so large they looked impossible. They shone too.
I often use the hashtag #natureismychurch on Instagram, because it’s in nature that I recharge, find peace, am accountable to the land and animals in the moment, and connect with the cycles of life and death. Nature reminds me of my best self and demands my best self.
I live on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people- the Squamish, the Musqueam, and the Tsleil Watuth. I’m grateful every day. We’ve just marked a national holiday in Canada; the acclaimed 150th birthday of the country. But the Coast Salish people precede colonists by many years and generations; by many seasons on the land. I’m first generation Canadian on one side; second generation on the other. I’m conscious that this is my heartland but isn’t my land. I cherish it, and hope in my lifetime to contribute to a response to the 94 Calls To Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is my responsibility on this land, in this city, in this country.
Images from this morning.