Photography by Cristina Gareau
Essai by Mia Daniels
Explore | Surf | Community
Reading time: 5 minutes
Text by Mia Daniels
Published February 2019
This simultaneous seeping feeling that: you are not alone and it is all alive
Re-orient oneself to another sort of time. Take notice. Check out of our time-constructed society. Check in to another rhythm: to the sun and the moon and the tides, and the stars painted upon back-night sky, and the light on the horizon and the shadows dancing around the fire, and the moisture in the air, and the dampness of the wood; the smell of freshly chopped cedar burning, embers in our fire. With the textures of the seaweed, re-orientate oneself to the ocean; to the land; to the weather; to the seasons; to the friends by your side; to the sand between your toes and the footprints that aren't yours – the marks that are defined by the natural lay of the land; the scent of a track; the call of the pack. And all the while there is this simultaneous seeping feeling that: you are not alone and it is all alive.
Imagine a river snaking through the rainforest jungle. The water shifts from black to brown to green, reflecting the lushness of the leaves, the trees, and unknown under-waters. The mystery of this dark tea soup suits the mood and speed of our travel. Our canoe is just inches from the water's slippery surface, breaking the delirium of upside-down reflections: with barely a ripple we glide our way along this silky highway downstream to the sea. Expecting to see an eagle overhead or a fish jump or a black bear through the brush, instead, we are greeted with only a calmness – almost uncannily quiet – it's as though we may be sailing to the edge of the world.
We are three in the canoe, fully loaded with all our gear: colourful dry bags, fishing rods and food; boards in tow. Nanou braves the black equivocal-cryptic waters in neoprene skin, paddling along beside us with her waterproof casing to capture the riparian delights. After a long day and a half of travel, traversing a sort of timelessness, getting lost and getting found along North Island logging roads, we slip into a wandering dreamtime sojourn; a rhapsody of rambling liquid seafare. Slowly flowing out the Bayou – the tide is on our side – we bask in the multitude of West Coast textures and the warmth of a late October Sun; we're simply passengers along for the ride.
We slip into a wandering dreamtime sojourn; a rhapsody of rambling liquid seafare.
There's no one on the beach; we didn't expect there to be. The sun is low as we disembark our river voyage, with just enough light to set up camp and get a fire going. As day fades to dark, we huddle around the crackling cedar, clad head to toe in wool socks, toques, and puffies. Hovering on the verge of winter our breath casts ghosts into the night, and with valour we embrace the uncertainty and mystery of it all. The moon is a toenail balancing upon the orange glowing horizon, dipping low to follow the sun on her early passage home. She leaves us with the most spectacular goodbye: star-filled sky.
Hovering on the verge of winter, our breath casts ghosts into the night
Awe-struck, we're overcome by a celestial silence, there must not be any words... and so we lay there gaping upwards towards black speckled night, taking in the entirety of the universe. It's hard to imagine a sky more bountiful, and we feel small but full of wonder. As we point out constellations: Big and Little Dipper, Seven Sisters, Cassiopeia, the sate-lights are glowing orange and fading out. This cosmos orchestra plays overhead, and we chime in with gleeful bursts as streaking trails of dust burn through the atmosphere. Our fire's embers are slowly dying too – must be that time – to crawl into our bags, snuggle close like sardines packed, and in our dreams we'll continue flying.
we're overcome by a celestial silence... and we feel small but full of wonder
Breakfast is coffee black and strong, smoky eggs and yams and toast all cooked over the fire. We feast like queens; whiskey shots to keep the blood flowing. Sitting around the fire we watch as the incoming tide fills the river mouth with little waves peeling all the way upstream and around the bend. It's true there's something about water rolling in from the sea – meeting the coast in waves – energies colliding; it's mesmerizing. Across the river we keep thinking we'll see a bear, but it's only shadows cast upon weather-beaten coast.
Old-growth driftwood logs are scattered like bones; the remnants of a party.
Our beaches along this coast are wild and chaotic: unruly waves crash upon rocks, slabs, and boulders. The kelp beds push and pull, this way and that, always at the mercy of the currents. Old-growth driftwood logs are scattered like bones; the remnants of a party. The trees, gnarled and crooked, must have their fair tale of winter's storm: waves and hurricane winds, something like mother nature's rave. We have this whole expanse of beach all to ourselves, there's barely even any wildlife. We imagine the bears and eagles to have migrated upstream to feed on spawning salmon. It is that time of year to feast – winter is coming.
We wash our dishes barefoot in the river, ankle deep in icy waters, our toes are pink. The smoking fire sizzles and the water is hot and boiling, and the afternoon coffee is brewing. Continually tending to the fire, we are like flies attracted to the light; we are buzzing.
We've come all this way to the edge of the world not knowing what to expect, and so, what a rush it is when we awake to glassy waters and peeling waves: we practically jump into our neoprene layers and run with our boards to the water's edge, sea-foam greeting us as it dances along the surface of the waves, fading in along the sand.
Gliding atop turquoise-clear icy waters...
We laugh and we hoot and we holler as we party-wave for hours, jiving back and forth along our planks, gliding atop turquoise-clear icy waters. There's really nothing like it – sharing waves with friends – with all our womanly goofiness and grace, we dance together in celebration; our longboards glisten like gems amidst these deserted northern beaches. Looking back towards the expanse of shoreline, there is only a single line of smoke trickling upwards against a backdrop of wild and crooked trees (our apres surf- sauna is calling). Clear-cut scars from logging past and present – cuts-blocks like missing chunks of skin and limbs – and the snaking veins of logging roads radiate across these wild lands. Even here, at the edge of the earth, we've left little untouched. With this there is a soberness: an aching in the heart; some sort of knowing: we must be doing something wrong; Not Man Apart.
With all our womanly goofiness and grace, we dance together in celebration; our longboards glisten like gems amidst these deserted northern beaches.
Peeling off our wetsuit skins, gloves and booties, we hang them to dry like carcasses from the trees. The coals and rocks are hot; our tarp sauna down the beach taunts us with an after-surf delight. We pour cups of salty ocean water over the rocks, breathing in the hot steam and eucalyptus oil, cleansing all our pores we are naked under steam-filled tarp. Running bare-butt and breasted four sets of naked footsteps streak along the beach. Without hesitation, diving into the shocking icy-cold Pacific waters – hearts skip – it takes our breath away. Skinny dipping amidst the wild, my heart is full; I can't imagine anything better. Back under the sauna haven, the light is blue reflecting on all our faces. Again! Repeat! Ocean water, steaming rocks, sweating hot. We are sandy and sweaty and naked and giggling. My skin is open, all my pores are open, all my soul is open to whatever this world may bring. We share in this experience, Cheshire grins from ear-to-ear, bond that are ever-lasting. Fingernails are filled with sand and dirt and charcoal from the fire, and it all is exhilarating.
Running bare-butt and breasted four sets of naked footsteps streak along the beach... skinny dipping amidst the wild
* * *
One our last morning as we pack up camp, our canoe is slightly less weighted, but our hearts are full, brimming with all that makes one feel alive – a full-hearted embrace of place. Coinciding with this embrace of place is a deep-rooted sense of belonging. We paddle away on the rising tide, and I reflect on all the confusion and strife in our fast-paced world, seemingly lending towards an ever-increasing tumultuous future. I don't know where we're headed, and I don't know what it all means, but what I know is that embarking on adventures such as these is what reinvigorates the soul and keeps my dreams alive.
Our hearts are full, brimming with all that makes one feel alive – a full-hearted embrace of place
Adventure is an active embrace of the unknown. With this practice – not to know – comes many ways of seeing; a curiosity that seems to seep into all your senses; a remembering of the interconnected intricacies, and through this, the relinquishing of one's ego, comes a rawness of pure creativity at the heart of the human spirit. Together with such elations of freedom and belonging, comes something more subtle and difficult to pinpoint. Somewhere up the river, it dawns on me: this feeling of alive-ness is that of pure contentment.
Somewhere up the river, it dawns on me: this feeling of alive-ness is that of pure contentment
Adventure & Surf photographer
With the same determined purpose and curiosity, Cristina wakes before dawn to capture that morning light dancing on water, and meanders downstream to swim with the spawning salmon. She says it's with an open mind and heart which leads her into the unexpected. Cristina's photography is of a sensitivity and disarming femininity.
Author, Artist & Surfer
Mia was born in the mountains, and now lives by the sea . Her practice spans the disciplines of contemporary art and design research, exhibiting and publishing Nationally and Internationally. After extensive travel in search of fresh tracks, waves, and all things creative, Mia has returned to the West Coast of Canada to explore how creative expressions coincide with her zeal for the expansive, interconnected, and vibrantly wild landscapes of home.