Sunday, October 21, 2007

Blogging Vancouver: Wreck Beach, the Rain, the Horizon

Some weeks ago, I decided to spend this Sunday in a long ramble from Jerrico Beach through Spanish Banks and then to Acadia Beach whence I would climb up to encounter the Arthur Erickson creation that is the Museum of Anthropology (MOA). I also planned on there being a steady cold drizzle. Nothing disappointed. What a sublime afternoon.

As most anyone knows, nostalgia is like virginity ... much better once one is only remembering. When I was a mere youth in my early 20s, cycling and wandering about in the rain here had meaning and depth that I can only taste on the wind. Today I focused on that visceral remembering, that hint of the virginal, the smirk and warmth of being where you have been even if you are not there now.

The trek grows steadily less civilized. It starts in the staid and self-satisfied urbanite enclaves of Point Grey, passing that most staid of all institutions that can waggle its nose at Pacific air, the Vancouver Yacht Club. I felt the faceless disdain as I walked by, and I remembered how that undermined me when I was young.

Lots of dogs, and dog people. Canadians do not acknowledge you as you pass. I know this, but it always comes as a surprise. I am a hello person; it makes me feel good. I say hello on a wet windy beach to other of the rain-soaked. We share something, a common joy in the uncommon enjoment of being wet and cold. But it is rare to get their eyes, so there are few hellos.

Jerrico Beach is civilized. Then, Spanish Banks has been tamed, but it is further and wilder. The latter part of it has been let go to the dogs, even down to the beach itself. There are lots of signs, but even so, I felt free, as if Loki and I could put down roots in a place like this.

At each moment, though, I am free to turn to the right and gaze on the grey horizon. (Thanks for the inspiration for this photo to Hiroshi Sugimoto, ... since I saw his work, I shall always shoot wet gray horizons.) Rain in my face, slowly dampening through, my hair drenched, but my feet dry and warm. Stare at the horizon and think of how many drops of rain between me and there. Remember I am here, and I will not be here when I think of it again, as I have not been here all these years as I have remembered being here.

Spanish Banks gives way to Acadia Beach as the road climbs up and out of access. I do not remember this stretch of beach being called Acadia Beach. We called everything past Spanish Banks by the name of Wreck Beach, and we tended to access it by cycling to the top, which is UBC, and then climbing down what I now know to be Trail 6. But more than once, I walked the length of Wreck Beach from where Spanish Banks cedes, where it turns from kept and sandy to unkept and rocky, from where stumps are cleared to where the beach becomes by turns passable and impassable. Now I am no longer in Vancouver ... I am on the west coast of British Columbia.

I picked my way slowly, and marveled. I could not help but feel at home, that this is where I am from, even if I only endured the drizzle of Vancouver for six years, while I have luxuriated in the fog of San Francisco for half my life, for almost 27 years. I labored not to think about work, but thought about the past and the future, and tried to bend my mind just to being here.

Sometimes the light waves of a drizzly day crescendo, and as they retreat, the rocks rattle and crackle like a calypso band. Sometimes there are forest paths that skirt the rocky shore and the sound is muffled and squishy. Sometimes there are waterfalls, and I crane to listen and comprehend the babble.

It does not matter how wet I am, and I am wet, very wet. When I find the path of 390 steps, Trail 4, that leads to the MOA, I am not disappointed because I understand that remembering implies the knowledge of the fleeting. No point in remembering that which does not disappear.

Photos by Arod.

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