… They didn’t. The wind spirits kept up their dancing through the treetops all night interrupting my peaceful dreams. They were nice dreams too: I was saying goodbye to my ex-partners and, in dream language, letting go of some aspects of my past. Our experiences with people in the past form patterns that we use to interact with people in the present and if, like me, you have been used to being treated badly by people in the past you expect the same from everyone you meet, albeit unconsciously. In reconciling your past pains you open up space for a new way of relating to people. There is still the stiffness to perceived turbulence and cold moments when you don’t connect with others but communication becomes more natural once you relax and, like the weather, dress for the occasion.
Time to get out of my pit and start the fire (it’s always been my first task after getting up – I hate cold starts and the warmth of a fire transcends the mere temperature rise). Putting a flame to the charcoal remains from the night before to restart the fire is always a satisfying feeling; more than using a fire lighter or lots of paper which just feels like cheating. It is wholesome to find dry leaves, grass, fluffy seeds and adding small twigs in a progressively woodier nest for the initial spark to grow into.
And once fire is born and feeding well it’s time to explore the new day. I start by looking over the ridge to the windward side: the waves are still rushing northwards too fast for us to safely ride anywhere. No problem as there’s no need to rush anywhere and the current spot is beautiful. The sound of a Clarke’s Nutcracker escaped through the turbulent treetops as it was busy plucking seeds from pine cones – it will be busy burying them to store for the coming winter.
Chilko is a place of power: there are spirits of all kinds here if you are willing to listen. Beings that can put fear and anger, or wisdom and peace into your heart. Here there is a balance of nature that is clear: it is animal and mineral; it is air, fire, water, earth. To the Okanagan people air can be seen as the breath of our land; fire is a gift given to us for warmth and energy, it makes us fertile; water is sacred and can cleanse or kill, it has great power but is also humble and stays lowly; and the Earth is what came before all and is the parent of all else. Rocks, because they have been here for so long, have great wisdom and have seen much. Air, water, and earth are abundant here at Chiko – so is fire in the form of plants and animals – including humans. It is a perfect balance. How could a searching soul not find answers here?
Here, I have learned to be at peace with myself; from that peace comes love and tolerance, and also clarity and strength. If I am at peace, there is nothing to fear from within. If I am at peace, there is no need to get stuck in a cycle of self-analysis and recrimination. Just me and the Earth (and, of course, the Earth is the parent of all) – much simpler than having to try to work out how to live in the 9 to 5, 16 to 65 world.
The Earth gave us fish and other things to eat; gave us brains so we can solve problems such as how to work with others to sustain families, tribes, and villages; how to use tools to make survival easier. And thus my new view of the world of people becomes clearer here surrounded by the less ambiguous elements. It’s a new paradigm. Last year, my time in the wilderness of the Inside Passage destroyed my world like a bulldozer would tear down a derelict building and I was left with a pile of bricks and bare earth. This time Chilko Lake has given me a level foundation, plenty of building materials (the knowledge that Chilko is generous to share) and some time to build a new place to live. I am not building anything as static or isolated as a cabin in the woods. More like a spiritual house-boat, or a canoe, moving and adapting to the changing scenery of life.
Speaking of cabins, Chris told us that there was one a little way from the camp into the forest that would be awesome to visit – so we gathered our walking gear, maps and GPS – and set out. We promptly got lost. After a little bush whacking and getting ‘strung out’ we followed Chris’s instinct for the place and found the cabin set besides a small lake – football pitch sized. The cabin was well equipped and had everything that you would need: lots of pre-cut firewood, plenty of tools, a library of books, lots of cooking equipment, even a power socket (Chris’s idea of a joke – installed years ago).
While eating lunch we took turns reading the two guest books which had lots of appreciative comments and some interesting sketches. There was a table outside, on the veranda, another table inside the cabin. A number of books were left on shelves, and lots of cooking utensils, pots, cups, etc. In the loft were a number of boxes with useful supplies of all kinds and enough sleeping space for a number of people to be cosy. In all, the cabin was very well equipped and potentially a very comfortable place to spend time. If you had the skill to fish, you could survive here for a long time: an attractive idea. We had lunch of bagels and cream cheese followed by coffee made by Bill.
After lunch I spent some time alone just sitting meditating on the water behind the cabin. Eddies in wind were occasionally hitting the water – the footprints of the wind spirits that were active during the night. The prints moved across the lake and glided into the treetops and beyond. I sat in utter tranquillity, free from ads, road signs, propaganda, peer pressure, and all other human complications. Thus blessed, I tried to work out where the human species was going wrong.
All we do as humans has its roots in nature, because we are children of the earth. Here in the wild, you appreciate that animals and plants commit acts that we humans consider crimes or disorders: murder, destruction, pollution, deception, greed, addiction. In watching schools of fish I can picture fans at a football match – all connected and governed by a collective purpose; in seeing wolves hunt down and kill a deer I can picture gangs in the slums of a large city; hearing the angry cries of black squirrels, I can remember people arguing when someone jumps a queue in a store. The only answer that I can find to the question, ‘where are we going wrong?’ is that we find it hard to overcome our innate instincts for survival (food, power, territory, family) and so the bigger picture often evades us. We seem to be short-sighted and fail to realise that waiting a few minutes in a queue will not deprive us of the essentials of life; that we do not need to stockpile possessions in order to increase our chance of survival; that wars are now more about money and power than defence of the tribe; that we are poisoning the Earth by the sheer scale of our existence.
Why can’t we be happier with what and where we are? Why do we constantly feel discontent and feel the need to buy, conquer, become, or ‘grow’?
In seeing myself in relation to nature, I realise that (until I get hungry, tired, or cold) I can stop worrying so much and simply be where I am. No more becoming, just being – now and here. When I’m cold I can start a fire; when hungry I can fish or gather plants; when tired, I can sleep. In the long term I can build a shelter to sleep in and a store for my food and a workshop for my tools. But for now I can live very simply and peacefully: here and now.
Did I say being here? Little did I know what I was saying…