I sit quietly and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. A gentle breeze caresses my forehead as I breathe deeply and absorb the smell of salt and cedar. I rock back and forth, to and fro, as the water moves in front of me, behind me, around me. The waves lap the side of the boat. The tide is changing.
I've waited all summer for this weekend, the second weekend in August, our Girls Getaway. We've been making this trip to Galiano Island, one of the gulf islands off the coast of Vancouver, for the past three years. The planning starts a month in advance, swapping recipes and deciding who’s going to cook what and for which meal. Then we arrange who’s bringing the tents, the stove, the fuel and of course the wine.
We scramble out of work on Friday and make a mad dash to catch the four o’clock ferry. Generally, we're on the dock packing the kayaks by five-thirty and we leave at six. We take the same route every year. From Montague Harbour we paddle north along the west coast up to the government dock, then cross the Trincomali Channel and land at Princess Cove about an hour and a half later.
Today is unusually calm. I'm paddling with the tide, which requires little effort. I'm completely vacant of thought but notice everything around me as if it's moving in slow motion. The occasional gull sings out as it flies overhead. My friends are ahead, laughing and chatting. I drift behind, not out of choice, but because Mother Nature has mesmerized me. The shoreline is rugged and more beautiful than I remember it to be. Rocks and trees towering overhead that must stand at least 60 feet. How long have they been there? What have they witnessed?
No one is out here except for us. No motorboats or yachts, just water, swirling, dancing water. I feel small in this vastness, bouncing and swaying with the waves.
The rhythm of the stroke calms me as the paddle dips easily into the water on one side, then rises up as small droplets of water spill onto my spray skirt and run down the side of the boat back to where they came from. It’s hypnotic.
I pass an outcropping of a sandstone cliff that looks like a wave ready to break. Its surface is like marble and the underside full of labyrinths. Shaped by the wind and water, it looks like the inside of a honeycomb.
For a moment there’s an eerie silence, the air and water are still. Suddenly, I‘m aware of turbulence beneath the boat. I look around and see nothing. I continue to take in the beauty. Then something hits the bottom of the kayak.
The boat lurches forward. Holy crap! I call out to my friends but they’re too far away to hear me.
What’s happening? Did I hit a rock? Did I run into a whale?
No, can’t be, I’m too close to shore.
In front of me to the right, is a swirl of bubbles forming a circle that’s growing larger. I hear a squeal as it erupts out of the water to greet me with the two largest eyes I’ve ever seen and an oversized moustache of wiry whiskers. Then it flips and dives under the surface. There are two of them. They chase each other around the boat, frolicking and diving, surfacing and squealing. Then they’re gone.
The sun is still bright in the western sky but the shadows are growing longer. I place my paddle in the water with determination and move in two-step time to catch up to my friends who have just missed the most joyous moment.
Cyndy Johnston is an outdoor enthusiast who is always looking for new adventures. She spent twelve years working and living on the West Coast of Canada where she enjoyed exploring nature's backyard. Cyndy works as a nurse educator in Mississauga, Ontario. Although she has been journalling for years, she is enjoying learning how to write more creatively through Brian’s Exploring Creative Writing class.
See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.