In the last few months I have become more vocal about my ‘interest’ in writing. I am careful not to say ‘of becoming a writer’ as I believe the stigma attached to that role is too dramatic. Instead, I use my personal approach to writing a segue to discuss writing as both a ‘practice’ similar to meditation and an outlet for creative energies. Inevitably, the subject turns to journaling. I am pleasantly surprised at how many people admit me to that they kept, or still keep a journal. The next query is ‘do you every go back and re-read? To my surprise, very few say that they do.
For the last 25 years, with the exception of being grounded on 9/11/2001, I have made an annual September pilgrimage. Initially the trip was born out of restlessness. In the mid 1980’s, having completed my schooling I didn’t want to deny the inertia of summer cracking the whip spiraling us into fall, it was time for change and that had always been school.
The first years away were quiet times to read, walk and take photos, and write. I have fond memories of lugging my father’s original IBM PC with a single disc drive, ‘mulimate’ word processing software, and a lead weight monochrome green screen to a cottage on the shores of Howe Sound on the west cost of British Columbia.
Writing in the third person, here is how I described myself at the time:
With three days off from his job as a front desk supervisor at a Vancouver luxury hotel, Kevin was in need of an escape. Bowen Island afforded this luxury. He got particularly frustrated with a constant need to be doing something constructive. He has forgotten how to be idle, accepting that just sitting can be quite therapeutic. The stress from work invaded all his moments with a chattering, chiding voice.
The interior of the house is cool; as the blinds are drawn back the silvery gray hardwood floors reflect the brilliant afternoon sunshine. A breathtaking outlook across the Pacific Ocean to the south and east greets the eyes. The house, which is about ten years old, has recently been completely refinished. Throughout its three bedrooms, two story living room, dining room, and kitchen, a general openness prevails. The cool grays and cotton coverings suggest a simple uncluttered comfort. After opening many of the windows Kevin sinks into a deck chair and looks silently out at the water. A few seagulls anxiously pursue a small fishing boat and a slight breeze from the east ripples the water. Fifty meters below, through a tangle of sword ferns and salal bushes, the water relentlessly rolls up onto the rocks with the rising tide.
Resisting an urge to switch on the stereo and bring a speaker to the outer patio, Kevin listens intently to the sounds around him. Slightly disturbed that he feels the need to have music when the water and birds form an entirely more relaxing soundscape. He recognizes that this impulse is somewhat indicative of the way things have been going in his everyday life. Being caught up in a big drama and the role he plays. Ask one his associate at work, and they would describe him as being a bit excitable but always smiling and apparently in control. The urge now to play music, he recognized as a symbol of using someone else’s creativity to manipulate the senses and create a mood.
A change in the tempo of the water on the shore brings his eyes out to the horizon where at a distance of about 15 kilometers, one of the large ferries can be seeing slowly moving through the Strait of Georgia towards Nanaimo. How long will it take for its waves to make it to this beach he wonders and corrects himself, this waterfront. Once he had referred to the strip of shoreline below the house as a beach, and had been corrected. A beach has to be sand the person had said. This area was almost complete rock
As the afternoon wore on Kevin finally appeared to let go his concerns and thoughts of the work place and slip into peace with his secluded environment. Sitting in the shade of a patio umbrella he became lost in the pages of his book…
Twenty years later, only the geography and the hairline have changed.
Forty minutes later a white car rolled to a stop in front of a small wooden house. It’s red stained wood siding and brown trim blends into the Arbutus trees that cling to the sparse earth and rocky surface. Off to the right a gravel path leads around towards the front of the house, to the left a vegetable garden long unattended reaches through the wire fence to be nipped at by the abundant deer population.
A tall man emerges, obviously cramped from the small Japanese car. He stretches his slender 6’4″ frame and lets out a long sigh. Pausing for a moment he stands with eyes closed, listening to the nearby sound of waves moving across a rocky shore. A smile purses his lips as he runs his fingers through his thin receding brown hair. Still warm for September, he wipes the moisture from his hand on his shorts and begins to unpack the car.