Routes back to Zen

A couple of things and they may or may not be related. A few days ago, I was making a list of things, people and places I use to calm me down.

It’s a good exercise because it gets me thinking of ways to get me settled when I feel unsettled. Usually I just wait for the unpleasant feeling to leave on its own. But why not give the unpleasant feeling a little shove out the door?

I wrote a list of things that included repeated references to the ocean. I know many people find solace looking out to sea, but few are as lucky as I was to have a beach and sandstone rocks as their childhood playground. I recently discovered a new path to my old beach and I took a friend there the other day.

“Why is the beach black?” she asked.

“It’s coal,” I said, explaining that a century ago coal was transported by rail to the harbour and loaded on ships. When the mines were shut down, coal was dumped on the shore. Two bays in the harbour have coal that’s been washed by thousands of tides. Two other beaches in the harbour are pebbled.

We climbed along the sandstone rocks to the point and sat with our backs against a slab of rock and a view of the Decourcey Group of the Gulf Islands. Behind them is the Coast Range, an almost impenetrable range of mountains that run parallel to the B.C. coastline.

Memories of being on the water, my happy place, bubbled to the surface. As a kid, I’d row around the harbour and find myself in the company of curious seals. I told my friend about falling while water skiing and being disoriented underwater. I soon learned to relax and take comfort that my body will surface, eventually.

I remembered our old neighbours, whose houses have long since been replaced with newer ones and new people. Uncle Merv and Aunty Lucy (just terms of endearment, not relatives) rowed across the harbour to the little marina to see actor John Wayne’s yacht, the Wild Goose, and he invited them aboard for a personal tour.

We kids weren’t allowed to fawn over celebrities like that, so we stayed on our side the harbour and played in the huge waves kicked up in the wake of Wayne’s yacht.

The little marina was owned for years by a self-styled pirate named Ken Kendall. He enjoyed his rum and blowing toilet paper out of cannons. He could be scary to young kids but he had a kind heart, once you got past the bluster. When Dad had an accident chainsawing logs on the beach, it was Ken who heard his cries for help and rushed to his aid.

There’s a rich history surrounding the place where I grew up, and sitting there on the rocks the other day prompted many memories to flood back.

Eventually, a few drops of rain signalled that it was time to go. I mentioned that I’d like to come back for a swim in the next few days, just to get one in before the summer weather finally ends. My friend said she’d like to come too.

Earlier that day, I took Gemma to a nearby woodlot. It’s a hidden treasure, a stand of wilderness tended to by the local university. It’s used to teach students about forestry, botany and more. I rarely see anyone there, though. Often Gemma and I have it to ourselves. I’ve taken to laying a hand on the trees, and acknowledging the life that sustains them. We’re all part of nature.

Today, I returned to work at my part-time job in a large retail outlet. My blood glucose was unusually flat. It used to be this way months ago, but has been elevated and spikey of late. I also feel…calm. When I write about things like this, I can reach deep into my psyche and find a deep sense of peace. Writing puts things to rest in a way talk therapy never could.

I’m doing something right.

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