Nature and how it nutures





Bless the kind heart


At one point in my life, I had retreated to the Courtenay community center sauna to warm up what may have been a frozen spirit. It was while I started to feel some warmth in my toes that I heard a voice from the dark say “do you know that Vancouver Island is part of Japan?”. I must confess that I was tempted not to reply. I was numb and I was simply craving solitude. As fate would have it, cabin fever and numerous cold hours of being a humble chair life operator on Mt Washington had driven me to this humid haven. I decided to open up to my sauna mates inquiry. He said that he was a geologist and explained to me that the upward force of liquid magma from the depths of the Pacific Ocean was constantly forming a thin plate that eventually formed the solid land mass that became both Japan and Vancouver Island. I was sincerely hesitant to even ponder my sweat mate’s hypothesis. While the heat had started to create sweat droplets on my brow, the notion of Japan and Vancouver being part of one similar land mass was simply not sinking in.

What I had come to accept was that like the bumper sticker on my old Volkswagen “Burfle”…. my “mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open”. The relativity of this simple message became more potent when it was fused to the vivid images of my youth. I use to watch my father “sky diving”. He would leap out of an airplane after tossing out a much loved teddy bear which also had a parachute. For a few brief sickening seconds, I would watch in horror and then sigh when both the parachute on my father and the teddy bear opened. Some how, parachutes, teddy bears and my own understanding of faith became part of the roots of my own spiritual tree of awareness. Some where in those thawing minutes in the sauna, my own awareness opened and I accepted the notion that perhaps within some terra firma there is the magic that inspires bonsai trees, butterfly museums, goats on roof tops and a zen koan about killer whales. While the seed of my career as an outdoor educator was planted by the tranquil and mystic waters of Quetico, Ontario, that seed grew into a gentle swaying conifer in the soggy forests of Vancouver Island. So when I rolled onto the ferry heading towards Vancouver Island many years later, I smiled a beatific smile and felt “the parachute open”. Some how I knew that my journey to the island would get my feet safely back onto the ground where nature nurtures happiness like a well cuddled teddy bear.


After way too many numerous trip around the sun, I had lost touch with that zap between my toes and the earth below them. Inspired by my new found challenges with gravity, I convinced my self that it made perfect sense to visit key paddle boarding centers or stores in British Columbia. On a logical level, it was a creative means to rationalize a journey that had a modicum of marketable flow to it. “Yeah, I will just write about something that folks would like read about”. “I will create an adventure where you could create your own script and scenes”, the whirr of rationalizations seemed abundant on that rainy day in March. I began by googling paddle board centers in BC and forwarded emails. As a “blogger”, I proposed that I was pursuing a mission to interview and visit with all the key paddle board centers and stores in British Columbia.

pacificpaddle outside

Once again, I was dreaming up ways to sell an oz like journey like the coca cola kid looking for that Australian sound. I had made that journey to Australia and managed to avoid winter for five years! This time I was off to see the Kahunas instead of the wizard. The only center to promptly reply was Pacifica Paddling Center. I would learn why within the first few minutes of arriving at their centers doorstep.



I am not sure what I expected when I finally found Brentwood Bay on Vancouver Island. After a few random turns and a conversation at an auto repair shop, I discovered that Brentwood Bay was right in the middle of what is now thought of as Vancouver Islands “wine country”. One of the joys of not having GPS is that you get to use practical wisdom. You embrace getting lost. You given the chance to make choices and mistakes and in between, you find those random tiny centers of rare human activity. There was a ferry, a spa, a general store full of odd items from China and a hidden walkway to a dock. Next to a wooden boat company was a sign for Pacifica Paddling Center. As I walked down the stairs, I started to feel a forgotten calm returning. My intent was simple and to the point. I was here to inflate my paddleboard and let the mirror like surface of the bay slowly tease away the tangled thoughts between my ear lobes.

As I stood inside the office of Pacifica Paddling Center, another nudge from the past began to reignite. I had once worked in a place like this. Yes, it was true. I was once a passionate individual who was fully prepared to spend their life celebrating the merits of all things natural. I believe that it was those ying yang vibrations within all living things that made life the magical thing that it was. I wanted to change the world enough to sing along with Pied Pumpkin and actually feel their enthusiasm.

Nestled between a boatyard and a ferry terminal, Pacifica Paddling Center looked out into a bay that was a truly a gateway to calmer waters. The owners Sandra and Peter welcomed me as “the blogger”. Looking into Sandra’s eyes as she talked about the company, I could tell that she was sizing me up. She knew I was up to something else. Meanwhile, Sandra’s other half, Peter was busy building a new dock. As I set off on my evening paddle, I felt a sense of being in a place of acceptance. I was returning home to a place where I had never been before.

After my paddle, I deflated Clarrity on the upper deck of the Paddling Center and there was the familiar exhaustive sound which was much like a constipated whale passing wind. A cheerful voice rang out from an adjacent house. “Ah..thank you!” and a mischievious grin looked out from the window of a lovely cottage next to the boatyard. Following a few glasses of wine and an invitation to camp on his lawn, I would learn that some Zen masters could be noble ex drug dealers and than there names did not have to be Lao Tzu but “Brian”. I guess that when you take the chance to open your heart to the universe, you have to be prepared for novelty behind some of those doors that open up. Having walked into the warmth of the interior office of Pacifica Paddlings office and then shared a comfy chair and Brian’s wine, I started to feel my own frigid roots of trusts beginning to thaw. While I was attempting to quiet my own thoughts and fall asleep in my half made tent. I heard a chuckle from the window. My evening meditations now complete, I thanked the spirits for my welcome back to sweet smelling and well groomed soil of Vancouver Island.


It was during my week long voyage around the island that Brian’s wisdom started to sink in. Among the tales that he shared with me was his own life intent for “down sizing” and a unique “reformed dealer” ethos of “not selling something that you were not take or buy your self”. In the past few months I had noticed that my own belief systems had flowed back to Allan Watt’s Wisdom of Insecurity. Like Brian’s own personal intents, I was attempting to understand the “down sizing” in my own life. Unlike journeys of my past where I was busy expanding new horizons, I was now having to let go of segments of my own spiritual and soul journey. In the past, it was all about taking all the pieces and seeing how they stuck together. Now, I had either lost or misplaced many of the pieces of my own life’s puzzle. Follow my own inner canine wisdom there was now eat, sleep, poop and play. The poop part was the piece that was not making sense. There were mountains of the stuff in my own mindscape. Yes, I could fertilize a mushroom factory for decades.

sunrise previctoria2

So I decided to live humbly and following a monk’s path. I slept in my tent or in the back of my pre 2000 truck. Each morning, I awoke early and paddled into calm bays to watch the dawn.

When I visited my daughter in Victoria and took her to Brentwood bay, I practiced my own Zen riddles with her. So as I was teaching her how to drive my truck I remarked that “In life, you need to find neutral”. I then smiled and said “the lucky thing is that this truck is an automatic!” As she confidently navigated through the parking lot of a juniour high school parking lot, I admired the swaying of nearby trees and the felt the warming glow of passing sun. Within the constantly changing clouds, rays of light refracted peacefully. Like my own thoughts, they soared and flowed with the heating air currents as I sat calmly as the tire rolled over a curb.

Once again, Sandra welcomed both my daughter and I to Pacifica Paddling. While we planned a possible paddle rental and date, there was that simplicity both in conversation and intents. While we discussed details, Sandra flawlessly answered more of my random question and offered directions to a campsite where I later would view the most amazing sunrise and listen to a spell binding version of the Eagle’s song Desperado by two elderly gentle who came and then quickly disappeared from the picture, leaving me with this picture and an odd feeling that it had all been staged for my own learning.

piano at cordorva bay

A few more days later, I returned to what was now becoming my safe haven “Pacifica Paddling Center”. Sandra grinned and said “ I know what you are up to, you are on a walk about”. Up to that point, I had not really thought of that notion. A walkabout was supposed to be about a rite passages into adulthood from youth. I had been there and done that! I gave the T shirts to my daughter to make a duvet cover and hung a few photos on the wall. If my current voyage was about anything, it was about losing the rigidity of adulthood and rediscovering the impetuousness of youth. Yes, I heard Brian’s advice. I was “down sizing”. I was attempting to rewrite my own story and let go of notions that had frozen my own soul. I was happily shedding away pounds and making new friends and strong muscles. My credo was: Live with happiness, health, be active and mindful. While my toes were on my paddle board, I was reawakening my own personal well worn and tested “woodsy” wisdom. While human nature had worn me quite thin, taking my soles and soul into for a ramble through a few hours in the woods managed to carve away a quiet place to embrace the cooling hush of the wind at a summit.

After agreeing that 32 degrees below zero was pretty much like 25 degrees below zero. My conversation with Peter, inspire a lining up of all the domino pieces between my own two ears. “As I see it”, Peter proposed “if it is not covered up, you are going to feel it”. Our conversation seemed to meander like a brook heading to the ocean. Now into the topics of paddling, nature and his own past endeavours as a bush pilot, Peter paused, smiled and hit me with a zinger. “You know” and then he paused again and looked me in the eye and said “ you do not have to follow the flow or the speed of the river. You do have the choice to find that safe and calm eddy and go against the rivers flow”. Only a few weeks prior to this moment, some one had told me, “the budha said that you cannot push the river” and now I was getting the zen flap jack flip side version. All I could do was grin and looked out at the bay. There was just enough time for a final paddle down a secluded inlet. Paddling against the wind, I dropped to my knees. I could hear one domino fall. At the end of an arm of Brentwood bay that ran along side Butchart Gardens, sitting on my board with my toes in the mud there was another thunk” between the ears prior to glint of sunshine peaking through the cloud. I munched a granola bar, sipped some Gatorade and watched an eagle soar above me. “Kathunk” went another wobbling domino. Paddling back to harbour, I met up with a happy tandem kayaking couple. She wanted to know about my board and he was just happy to be with his partner again. There was that giddy and bouyent sensation of new love in their gestures and conversation. Yes, they were new to the island and the magic seemed to be seeping out of the soil and into the air. We laughed and talked about the joys of the island life. I did envy this couple for their new found joy. Another domino went “plunk” between my meditations and a blast of wind tickled my neck back to impending reality. Prior to three or four consecutive “bonks”, I spread my stance and dug my paddle into the water. No paddling against the river. Find a safe eddy and regroup. I was attempting to “down size”. Another fresh blast of wind inspired a mad dash across Brentwood Bay as an impending storm started to show it’s self. “Thunk, plunk and pffft” went the last remaining dominos.

As I came by the Pacifica office, Sandra was busy calling folks and insuring that they did not set off into harms way. She looked down at the dock and made sure that all rental folks were safely returning. It is said that there are folk of actions and then the are the rest of humanity. What was clear was that Pacifica Paddling Company was based upon those simple ideas that Brian had mentioned. They personally cared about those who came to visit their center. With a nudge of a paddle, folks can easily drift into an environment that takes away the rough edges. Without a bunch of hoopla, they trusted the simplistic powers of nature to nurture. Sadly, I would have to go home early. A paddle with my daughter would have to wait for another time. An impending storm was too strong and I had to get ready for a new school year. Meanwhile, prior to returning to school, I had promised my self that would have one last “back eddy” to put things into perspective.

A few weeks later, when I started my first class of biology, I had just finished talking with a young man who I have been mentoring for the last two years. He was born in China yet he had spent many years in Japan. During this discussion about the challenges of ESL sciences students he said “here we use science to explain nature. In Japan I was taught that nature reveals it’s secrets to science.”. There was a big budha grin on his face. I looked into his sparkling eyes and smiled. Perhaps the magic in the soil was both in Japan and Vancouver Island.A few minutes later, I stood before my new class. They were half awake and looking as enthused as a stray herd of wild bovines. I looked back at them and wondered “What could I do to inspire an insightful voyage into the world of physiology, nature and self discovery?”. What could I say or do that would calm their turbulent teenage waters”?

For just a few seconds, I stood speechless and enjoyed the peaceful silence within my classroom. I reflected upon of those things that I had both gained and lost in my own life. Where had my latest walkabout taken me? How or why would I even bother to explain a form of universal love that goes outside the realm of humanity? Would I replicate Feynman’s wisdom by stating that forget about science and learn about love. Was there a place for peeling away the frosty exterior of the educator and inspire deeper perceptions that could explain both personal and scientific terms the many layers of being hurt? Would I ignore my own origins of a pain that seemed to come forth every time another piece of the puzzle faded away? What was it that kept me seeking out journeys leading towards healing?

I heard Brian’s voice say “down size”.

While I adjusted my tie and purposely stepped forward, my mind seemed to slip into neutral. I had been here each year yet the moment never seemed the same. The new year was now beginning to flow and I was seeking that one calm back eddy to find my own peace. Outside, the sun shined onto a few stray leaves of plants within my classroom. In a flash, I saw the beauty of solar energy turning into a new form of energy. With each breath, I thanked the plant for their oxygen and a smile grew upon my face. I looked back at my students and said , “Greetings and welcome to my class. Let’s explore the world of biology and human physiology. First of all let’s discuss the following words”. I turned to the chalkboard and wrote. “medicus curat, natura sanat”. (medicine cures, nature heals).  Looking out the window once again, I could see Brian’s Cheshire Cat smile looking back at me.

For the “Island Folks”

zen and the island

Zen and Vancouver Island


And the waves roll in

Recently I was informed that some one had started an early morning trend to climb to some mountain summit and take a. Canada Day Sunrise .“What a great idea” I said, quickly grinning because I have been up to this mischief for many a year.

Just prior to finishing high school, I was asked to provide my younger uncle from Yorkshire, a truly unique San Francisco experience. We drove to Mount Tamalpais, hiked up the road (the gate was closed prior to sunrise) and caught the first rays of sunshine rising over Mt Diablo.

A few years later, as a canoe guide, I convinced young adults Michigan and Ohio to paddle through the mist into a new day in Quetico Park in Ontario. I even started a family tradition and navigated the inconceivable morning traffic of Tiburon just to watch the sun rise above Mt Diablo.

So when I finally parked my truck in the early hours of the morning at a stray parking lot north of Qualicum Beach, I had no need to rationalize the long drive from Victoria. After a few ackward hours of attemptin to sleep inside my crowded Ford Explorer “Ataboy”, my phone alarm went off.




I crawled out to great the day. It was still quiet and dark. The beach was empty and so was the parking lot. I was in the process of seeking out a viewing spot when a car pulled up. “Who was this person?” I wondered and felt my own private moment was about to be invaded. What could lure another out of a peaceful slumber? I went over to my truck, said hello and the man, who was somewhat alert, told me he was about to get wet. Quietly, I wondered, “Was he a paddler like my self? Was he going for a sunrise swim? What was he up to?”.

I decided to sit down and just accepted the fact that watching sunrises was now simply a new fad. I looked to my left and noticed that my parking lot partner was now rigged up in his gear of waders, fishing vest and fly rod. He marched into the rising tide and took up a spot right smack in the middle of my field of view. Soon he and several other anglers created a phenomena of fishing heaven prior to my first click. Yes, here was the first true early morning dawn watchers. Long before a note of “Oh Canada” was sung by the masses, there was whispers on the phone about about this random piece of beach that was a secret hot spot. How I had found it was just a fluke. Was it fate? I didn’t consider this since the first cup of coffee was at least an hour away and I was just wondering how a pair of toddlers goggles had been left behind on the log I was sitting on. The sun was slow in rising and my enthusiasm for paddling waned as I entertained thoughts of flying hooks going into my inflatable board. So I quickly took some snaps and sought out breakfast. I decided to keep the photos to share but I promise  to keep the location a secret.


In a tourist town, the hours of operation are relative to tourist hours. Besides my fly fishing enthusiast, who probably had been smart enough to bring a thermos, the cup of Joe was not even being sold at a Tim Horton’s. So I drove around, found some bunnies who had already found their breakfast and waited for a local coffee shop to open. As one of the first customers, the local staff was content to just share information. Yes. they paddled boarded and the best spot was a lake name Spider lake. I dove into a truckers breakfast, read the local paper and wondered how this day would evolve. Could I follow this tidal flow of events, from morning anglers to a a lake named after an arachnid? I had planned only to visit a surf shop, Island Surf. I had read that it was one of the first both to get paddle boarding happening in BC and perhaps Canada. I was lured in to a desire to meet the big Kahuna, Colin Kearns, and learn the ways of the paddle from one of the front runners. Yet at seven in the morning, his shop was not yet open and neither were my eyelids. A few more cups of coffee, a fruit salad and eggs and I decided to find Spider lake. It was right there on the map, just off the highway and nestled in between some coastal mountains.


I arrived and started inflate Clarity. Even my own board was reluctant to inflate or what it the guy at the pump. I was beginning to rationalize the investment of an electric pump when a family showed up, unloaded their plastic kayaks and went quickly off to the beach. I continued to pump when another couple showed up to walk their dog and the park attendant went by picking up evening party folks waste. By the time I got onto the water, the quiet of the morning was still a distinct possibility.


I was able to sneak up on a family of geese who were just loading up on shore grass and had a little chat with an aging kayaker who was wondering if he could adapt to a paddle board. I was content to share all the great things about my board and it wasn’t even eight thirty yet! Who were all these morning people? I sat down on Clarity and decide to just let the clouds drift across the mirror surface of the lake. This was the reward of waking up prior to the sun. I smiled and recalled my parking lot partner catching the first fish of the day. There was the arc of his rod and the slow methodic reeling in of a salmon to the shore line. Due to the low rivers, anglers were having a field day of catching salmons staging to return to their home rivers. Meanwhile, a canoe went by with a fishing rig absentmindly set in it’s stern. This was fishing with just the intent to get out on the lake. The calm of the morning was the key thing luring folks here.

After circumnavigating the small lake and a few more pics, I decided it was time to find Island Surf and learn more about this notion of why folks were now taking up paddle boarding. After driving through town and stopping at a few stores, a young women said “oh yeah, that is the place next to the Texas Rib place outside of town Coombs, just take the highway like you are going to Tofino. Fortunately the coffee and paddling had woken me up enough not to foresee an absent minded detour to the west coast of Vancouver Island.

I traveled by a  butterfly museum in Cooms and a tie dye t shirt spot, saw the goats on top of Coombs general store and sure enough, there was the billboard, I had found Island Surf.

Why have a surf shop miles away from any beach? The logic did stump me just a bit until I realized this was the only road leading to Tofino. The strategy was sublimely two sided. Not only could surfers find a new board that may have been munched by an eratatic waves in Tofino, now there was an option for tourist and newly retired folks in Parksville and Quilicum beach to invest in a paddle boarding. With my windows down, I could just sniff the Texas rib place firing up the morning fire. This was Vancouver Island, you accept the juxtaposition of odd ventures side by side. This was a road where goats ate off the roof of a building covered with grass.

It is a place where Artisans have their own wares advertised not only with billboards but also with government road signs. To expect the unexpected was normal. A surf shop was just another roadside attraction and I was off to meet the Kahuna. To me, it made total sense.



As young family was looking at boogie boards, a newly wed was rationalizing purchasing a new board for him self. Some how he just knew and trusted that his new spouse would understand. A mother and her two kids looked at a redpaddle board like my own. I could not help my self. I smiled and started pitching the merits of the board. Lorne, the store manager, just grinned. Sure, folks just randomly come in the door and start yakking about how great paddling is. We swapped smirks and I backed off and started looking at all the Mexican furniture, which I just expected to find in a surf shop. The A frame building housed everything from surfboards, wet suits, surf gear and more to metal statues of dogs riding bicycles and Mexican ponchos. Still some what numb between the ears due to lack of sleep and early morning ramblings, I looked around and just soaked in all. It was was a treasure chest for ADHD mind.  I mentioned my email to Lorne and he said..”yeah..we got want to talk to Colin” and that is when I met the Kahuna.

You know there are those who talk and those Colin Kearns didn’t have to say a word. His body and physical stance just gave the message. Yes..I may be in this store yet I live on waves. His smile was contagious and his enthusiasm as he showed me paddle and surf books soon had me wanting to join him in the waves. “Sure, you can surf, you just need to find the right board”, he said. There I was a newbie and fresh to paddling and now I was actually thinking of going out into the cold west coast surf if only to be there with the Kahuna. We swapped tales about places we had been and things we had done. Yes I had surfed but it was in a seventy four foot yacht south of Australia. As usual, tales always get fun when you are yarning about who did what first.  “ Hey I sold that dude his first paddle and board” Colin said when I mentioned folks I had met in my travels. This was the Kahuna and he had seen the wave of prospective paddle boarders coming. “It is the soccer moms and the new retirees who want to stay fit that started the trend here”, he shared with me. He had seen the wave of wind surfers, “oh those are the guys who want to know all the stats about the board, what is the volume and more..and heh I just tell them to just find a board that suits you”. I was already intimately aware of this form of surfer logic. I was once told how to surf the waves of Tofino in a kayak..”Just lean to Japan”. Simple facts and no heady stuff..just be in the moment and do not let your head get in the way. If was simple and to the point. It was dude wisdom.

Colin told me about his store, his endeavours to bring Mexican furniture back after a few winters avoiding the rain and how he had done a full circle on owning and then reowning a business that rose like a phoenix from the ashes. It, the store, was an extension of a person who was happy to play in waves, no matter if it was in South africa, Mexico or the cooler climes of the BC coast. For just a sec, I recalled the young geese following the older and wiser ones into the water as I attempted to take a snap at Spider lake. “Follow me grommet, you will find both joy and safety in the water and waves. Unlike the calm of Spider lake, the waves of the coast are a force that can seriously mess you up. Yet here I was, happy to just listen to a person wordly wise enough to truly understand what it takes to be full goose bozo. Here was a person who definitely had the right stuff to lure folks into the ocean. Ride the waves. Feel their force and find the board that suits you. It will come, just like putting a ankle cord in a boogie board. Colin’s pearls of wisdom came forth like perfectly smooth beach pebbles, “All you have to do is point into the wave, bail out and get your paddle hooked in”. He looked me in the eye and set the hook,  “ You have to come out next August and we will go out there together”. Just like the morning salmon that my parking lot angler had caught, I was hooked. We swapped wares, I convinced him of the merit of “sore no more” and he gave me a Island Surf team t shirt. We even posed for a picture by “ATABOY” as the smell of Texas Ribs filled the air. “Texas Ribs in Vancouver Island, I just do not get it” Colin muttered. I even convinced Lorne that Qualicum beach needed to form a paddle board water polo team and that they should sponsor a tournament. I have no doubt it will happen sooner than later.


After putting a new sticker on the window and shaking Colin’s bear paw hand again, I got behind the wheel and headed south to my next mission, a desire to climb a mountain. It was a long ride. The whole way, a stoic grin remained on my face. I was stoked. I wanted to share my story with my friends. I wanted to share with the world what treats an early morning sunrise can bring forth. It seemed to me that my only sole desire was to celebrate the what a sunrise and a few extra hours of the tides of time can bring. I looked at my oversized  extra large t shirt and cracked up at how I had lost forty five pounds. Now, I was rationalizing paddle surfing in the waves. The hum of the wheels and summer wind teased my ears. Why get up early to dabble in the waves? Why seek out those odd moments in time? Why solitarily pursue something other than kudos in a job or finally purchase that one special item for the household? Is it nobler to seek out your own  life experiences verses dreaming about more possessions? Is there wisdom in riding the products of wind and tides? What if you accept the fact, that even though you know that you may fail or fall off,  there is the lure to just say bugger it all and go for it? These thoughts and more drifted in and out of my mind. Out of my rolling meditative state a past solitary song came to mind. Hands on the wheel, I arched into to a winding path down the highway and began to sing. Looking in the rear view mirror, I saw the ocean hidden between the mountains. I realized that to insure a good past, you had to recognize the gift of the tides of time. Yes dawn watchers, cherish the oddities and lures of time well spent in the present.

New version of “Everyone is talking at me”

“Everybody’s Talkin'”
(originally by Fred Neil)

Everybody’s talking at me
I don’t hear a word they’re saying
Only the echoes of my mind

People stopping, staring
I can’t see their faces
Only the shadows of their eyes

I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Through the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes

Banking off of the northeast winds
Sailing on a summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone

Wah, wah wah-wah wah
Wah-wah wah-wah, wah wah-wah

I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Through the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes

Banking off of the northeast winds
Sailing on a summer breeze
And skipping over the ocean like a stone

Everybody’s talking at me
Can’t hear a word they’re saying
Only the echoes of my mind

I won’t let you leave my love behind
No, I won’t let you leave
Wah, wah
I won’t let you leave my love behind

Link for Island Surf

Link for Spider Lake Provincial Park