There were no bright lights or overwhelming sky scrapers, no famous monuments or museums; instead there were trees that reached for the sky and water as calm as a bowl of holy water not yet broken for blessings. Our rookie paddle strokes clumsily entered the water with splashes that broke the silence we were so desperately trying not to disturb.
To any of us 8 rookies, the landscape of these over 100 islands all appeared quite similar; trees, beaches, and cliffs surrounded by more water than you could imagine. But to our guides Frank and Jesse every turn we took had purpose; to lead us to a special inlet, or traverse of trees that told a story, that had substance beyond just their physical nature. We learnt stories of how the Tseshaht First Nation worked with the unique features of each island to fish, hunt, and to build a home. This fascinating group of people worked with nature not against it, to establish and sustain the land in which they found life in. To anyone that did not know, you would assume this group of islands had been untouched, as very little evidence of previous human life existed. However, with a little education from our guides our unknowing eyes began to uncover the clues that indicated previous life, one being the bays with cleverly crafted collections of sticks that were used to quietly capture fish.
As we ‘parked’ our kayaks along the shore of one of the islands to have lunch, I found myself making every effort to reduce my impact. Watching each step I took as to not crush what was living, observing and respecting its place in this wonderful habitat. With increased awareness I attempted to absorb the surroundings from all angles, to not just look up, but to also look down, to look right, and to look left. The guidance of Frank and Jesse helped to steer my gaze, as their depth of knowledge added substance to each new sighting. The bald eagle nesting in the trees was so much more than a bird as we learnt of their famous courtship free wall ritual, in which two bald eagles fly up high, lock talons, and cartwheel spin toward the ground together breaking apart at the last minute. An amazing fact that re-solidified my fear of birds, and made me realize just how tame being a human really is. Although, I never plan to sign myself up for a freefall courtship ritual, and will stick to the safety of a bed.
This was just one of the instances in the approximately 8 hours spent amongst the islands that I realized just how small a part in the world I play. For so many years I had sought out the ‘busy life,’ overrun with noise and hustle, as it felt fuller to me. Quiet felt empty and limited, but as I floated amongst the calm I realized just how full the quiet could be. That so many times layers of stories existed beneath the quiet exterior, and that it just took time and interest to uncover them.
Thanks to Frank and Jesse and the Broken Group Islands I began to re discover the life I longed for. A life guided gently by my surroundings, with less force, and more freedom. This experience guided me back to my original values, my love for nature, and my longing for calm. Floating in my kayak gliding through the water, I found so much more than nature and adventure, I found my sense of calm. And in that calm, I found peace; something that had been lost to me for so long.