“the land is all small places, all precise tiny realms replicating larger and smaller patterns… our place is part of what we are” ~ g. snyder
Sense of place is wonderfully complex. Places are woven, as much rom the natural fibres that occur as they are from the threads contributed singly & in strands from all members of the participating community, and the yarns spun out of pure nothingness, feats of imagination that become as real as the tangible aspects of space through this interweaving of time & all of its many moments. What strikes me repeatedly about this place is the vibrant greenness of the trees and moss and grass—vegetation seems to lovingly embrace everything in this town—moss drapes from every limb, vines climb fences, houses, towers – anything they can lay claim to. The great trees hold wisdom not unlike the old men they stand sentry for along the walkways. Even the humans are awash with a green glow in the presence of all this luscious growth; there is respect for this community of greenness that mirrors the respect within the human community here.
. . .
If there is one thing, apart from the sea, that is inseparable from the Beach, it is Sand. Seemingly endless, seemingly infinite tiny specs of material aggregate to form a mass. Each particle holds a unique story—each grain has experienced a journey unique until a certain moment, and in that moment the seemingly countless grains amass in one collective so commonly referred to as ‘beach.’ We do not usually attribute mobility to sand grains and yet they, and the beaches they compose, are characterized by constant motion.
Each grain collides with another—perhaps for a moment, perhaps for a while—before time, fate, and various serendipities conspire to land that grain or two in your supper, tent, eye, or shoe. In these places, amongst others, sand can be an abrasive force of erosion and discomfort, slyly making its way into pockets, sleeping bags, the creases of books and bodies… often only the abrasive aspect sticks out, inspiring discomfort, annoyance, and occasional rage: Sand is encroaching on spaces sand should not be—not all at once, but in the moment, a few grains can seem like the entire beach. And the place for a beach is not in a tent, especially because the place for a beach is just outside the tent. Why connect further than necessary? Why invite the beach inside? At first perhaps, such an intimate connection feels invasive, alien, and unwelcome. The sand does not belong in my place of sleep.. the sand is a part of a different place. But, as time wears on, and the sand grains worm their way into the lives and hearts of those who reside by, and even those who visit, the beach, they become not only accepted, but also appreciated for their uniquely beautiful journeys, for their persistence, for their power to shape. In their uncanny ability to inhabit all spaces, they impart a little bit of their place—the beach—in the minds, hearts, and souls of all those they encounter.
Sand grains, and the spaces they invoke place in, are then not altogether that different from humans.
to the beach
The sunlight glints off the wavelets and ripples of the waters of the inter-coastal; its brilliance is intense. After a few hours, my face seems to be radiating a similar heat, despite my attempts to shield it from the less-desirable effects of the sun. The warmth from the sun though, is a pleasant feeling on the rest of my body as we paddle.
There is so much wonder and gratitude that my body does all I ask of it; this paddle feels glorious—not too strenuous, but challenging enough that a warmth to mirror the sun’s spreads through my limbs. We are creatures of movement, and there is so much joy in moving. I reach a rhythm that is reminiscent of a similar state in running. It is a trance-like feeling—a separation feeling that is not unlike floating—and a perceptive and conscious heightened awareness of every motion and every interaction. These moments, I feel like I could run, or paddle, endlessly. They are invaluable times for meditative reflection, for contemplation of self & connections, for all sorts of winding thoughts. The sinuous movement of a dolphin up ahead shook me out of my trance-like reverie. I watched it move gracefully through the wavelets, paddling deliberately forward; hoping fervently that our paths might intersect. Moments later, the dolphin is several boat-lengths away, but moving in a departing direction. I try to temper my disappointment, but suddenly, it breaches the surface rather close to me, deviating at nearly ninety degrees to swim directly towards my boat. Separated from everyone else by a fair expanse of water, it could be in my mind, at this moment, just this dolphin and me. The dolphin surfaces again, just past what looks like arms’ reach. It turns its head, and my eyes meet one of his—dark and unfathomably deep in all that they have seen that is far beyond my scope of understanding. And yet, despite this very obvious difference between dolphin and me, I feel connection, and when the dolphin leaves as the whine of a jet ski interrupts the surrealness of the moment, I feel this deep sense of longing to be a part of that underwater community, to escape beneath to one of the few wilderness’ as of yet inhabited by humans. As the moment passes, and the jet skis motor by, I am left with a raw sense of awe, of joy, and with the thought that sometimes simple appreciation of the beauty of things as they are is connection enough.
I’m not sure why exactly sunrises in new places call to me so.. but nevertheless I endeavour to catch at least one per trip (and to express their inevitably profound effects on me afterwards).
Our last morning on the island began with a cool chill—cool enough for leggings under my shorts. The sky across the inter-coastal, and in all directions, was breathtakingly beautiful—I must’ve taken 300 photos trying to capture it, but with less than favourable results. I did capture a few moments, though, and these seemed to epitomize the light & experience of the dawn: They are of Soulmate Sarah standing ankle deep in the surf, stretching, walking, taking it all in. They are not posed, and they lack the canned perfection of a stereotypical sunrise yoga shot—perhaps this is why they so aptly capture the moment for me. There is so much beauty in the struggle to achieve perfection; there is so much beauty in all things flawed, unfinished, imperfect. Sometimes, this beauty is in the potential, and sometimes it is in the flaw itself. Beauty then is not inherent, but rather ascribed through our perceptions & the stories we create for all that we see.
Some people lament that sunrises & sunsets are the same everywhere, and in fact, they happen everyday—stating this as if it’s an adequate & obvious reason to let them pass without acknowledgement nor appreciation. Contrarily, I find great appreciation in the genuine-ness of a sunrise… It’s not trying to be what ‘beautiful’ is. And try as we might, we have little, if any, control over its timing, colouring, or length. Even with its consistent patterning, each sunrise is different, both physically & figuratively.
I think I appreciate them so much perhaps because of the opportunity for genuine connection with the natural world that they offer, so unfailingly, every morning. It is a chance to embrace the world as it is, an opportunity to reflect on what has happened, and what might happen in the future, and to see with a new light ourselves, this world, and all of our connections within and between them. Here’s to the beauty of a new day, and new beginnings, as we are shaped, sometimes imperceptibly, by the sand grains of each passing moment.