Not Just Another Setting Sun

Another beach and another sunset. I took another photograph from one of the other and remarked that I would be adding it to the now after many years overflowing file folder marked SUNSETS. Of course, most of these evening shots have my wooden kayak displayed prominently in the foreground cast in lens flares as I don’t much care for filters. It has become almost silly to constantly record local sunsets as inevitably they all come out very much the same. Golden light. Clouds if I am lucky to break up the scene are often back-lit, or illuminated from below in a pallet of reds, purples and orange. The water between myself and the orb are dancing ripples or opaque flat liquid reflecting to the sky, itself. Why keep taking these pictures?Jackscrew Island

On a small, privately owned island our gang of four landed and set up for a meal of take out sushi and beer on the limbo of the low tide line and out of sight of the luxury cottage. It seemed fair as we were not staying particularly long, and would not leave a single trace of our existence as we admired the setting sun over the Vancouver Island hills. Why take this picture? Because several years ago on the same exact beach my paddling buddy on that day and I sat, watching a sun go down when two Emu walked out of the trees and down the shore to where our kayaks lay. Once they had satisfied their curiosity the two birds walked calmly back into the bushes. I waited but to my disappointment the rest of the safari did not appear.

Much has changed on that little island in the interim years and now the humble cottage is more to the high-end scale of abodes. The frontage is landscaped and a cluster of totems stand guard in front of the house, and subsequently down the beach where we now sat. Somewhat out-of-place, and a smattering of a curiosity they are that makes me imagine the same beach in fifty years. Will it seem a scene from Haida Gwaii? Why take those pictures then, and now?

I have paddled so many times for the coordinated trading of places of sun and moon the night of a full moon rise. The monthly joy of setting out mid-evening to catch the last heat of a setting sun as I paddle out among the chain of islands so familiar to my boat, paddle and internal compass that I can navigate them after dark without aid of any man-made lights. The moon enters the play closer to ten o’clock and by then I have been on the water, or languishing on a beach for a couple of hours. The excitement is the same each time as I paddle backwards from the island further into the channel until the moon appears from behind the next island in the chain blocking my view. Phosphorescent sea lights up my paddle strokes and even the brightness of a moon no waxing can clash with the sparkle that is only seen to be believed and escapes language to describe.

A seal comes too close to shore at our next beach stop sending ripples of glittering water to the beach pebbles at my feet. He is blissfully unaware of our presence as the small rather scruffy and orange Mink that startled me by leaping over my out-stretched leg while I sat on a log quietly. It was as startled to find us there so quietly taking in the magnificence of our own existence that evening, and shot down the beach into the darkness after running the gauntlet of steeple chase hurdles that was our line of landed kayaks. Why take these pictures at all?

It is simple, the mind wanders from experience to experience, and event to event. Each journey out at night that will always amaze at least one person I tell who inevitably questions going out paddling after dark as unwise. To this, I can try to tell them why. I can only go so far to persuade them of the greatness and quality of life rewards of staying out on the water until 1:30 in the morning in a kayak. To the child-like wonder of causing the ocean to sparkle and to hold that speck of starlight in your palm for a moment. Paddles splashing about to light up the seas beside each kayak, and watching the harbour seals shooting along down below your kayak in greenish blue sparkled torpedo stealth with a warm breeze from the south after hours, heck months of holding fast against a northern chill.

Eventually, the unpersuaded aquaintance needs one more thing. Photo evidence of why anyone should do this year after year, summer night after summer night causing next day foggy drowsiness, which literally puts a stop to any real productivity due to lack of sleep. A picture of a kayak on a beach at sunset with a pair of Canadian geese out for an after summer cruise before returning to the fledglings in the nest. Not enough? How about a photo of the Moon shining loudly from behind patchy clouds over smooth still midnight waters so smooth  they reflect the sky to stary perfection? Oh come on now, still think it is silly to go paddling at night? Maybe a photograph of totem poles still newly crafted and undamaged and un cracked by the elements. Getting closer now aren’t I. Here, have a cold beer and a sushi roll and the warmth of a setting sun on your face. Now, after a long miserably long winter it is feeling like summer, birthing us anew. Take a picture of that!


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