There is a quality about being here. Not to romanticize it, but to capture it. I woke up this morning and smiled, hearing rain pattering on the window outside. I love BC rain. A light rain sailing through a misty morning. I sit inside, but the sliding doors are open to the backyard. I hear the birds out there. I see the evergreen trees, growing so tall into the sky. There is a gentleness to the air, too. A humidity, maybe, a heaviness that doesn’t feel like a burden but instead like a stabilizing force anchoring you to the ground. There is a calmness. I don’t know how to explain this sensation – but it’s like all the muscles in my body relax and I’m just here.
I wandered through Crescent Beach, BC today and remembered how different it was when I was a child. I then recalled my grandfathers stories about White Rock beach, and how it had been when he was a child. At five years old, he would run down to the beach every morning and go crabbing with his brother all day long. There were only a few houses scattered across the steep hill leading down to the beach. Today the hillside is packed with beautiful beach residences. My mom looked down at the tidepools from the pier a couple days back, and told me she was sad to see sand filling them up, most of the life that used to be inside them gone. It made me want to record what Crescent Beach looks like today, so I can remember it years from now.
Driving along Crescent Road to get to the beach, a number of massive homes with steely gates have been built. They feel untouchable but somehow still blend in, mixed with older homes. You can just see the ocean (or is it the Nicklemeckle River?) through the trees on the right. I pass Crescent Park, remembering the soccer games I used to play there. I pass a bread bakery that started up in my childhood, and think I should pick up some bread there later. Driving over the railroad tracks, little shops and restaurants signal my arrival to the beach. Some old, some new. The sides of the roads in this area almost feel like they just fade into the earth, with grassy edges. Nothing feels overly done-up. The breakfast place on the left hand side still feels homey – with a huge flowery mural on the side of the building.
Today at Crescent there is a mix of old and new homes. Some towering new mansions with huge decks overlooking the sea. Some tiny, ramshackles places with caving in roofs and overgrown greenery. Some rare empty lots where nature has been left to go about her business. I wonder how long they’ll be there? Parking is free and there is usually a spot to be found. The old building where I used to go to Brownies is still there. Families wander along the gravel seaside path eating ice cream cones. Kids make sand castles and play in the tide pools. White sandy shell pieces, mixed with pebbles and mussel shells line the shore. Runners run, chatty, neighbours walk their dogs, residents sit on their porches and mow their lawns, visitors grace the benches looking out at the oceans. I often wonder, when I run along Crescent’s beach path, who has always been here. When I look at the smaller homes, I hope that they never go away. I want this beach to belong to the people it has always belonged to. This makes me wonder, to whom does Crescent Beach really belong? I wish we could give it back to herself.
Blackie’s Spit is still there, indicated by an old, fading sign next to the entrance. It’s still black muddy, flat. Locals fly kites along its edges. I run there, along the sandy path, remembering my grandma. The few people I see out on the spit feel like they belong. They blend into the landscape. They sit on the sand in quiet conversation. I stop, walk, feel my heart open up to this beautiful place that still feels like home.
Crescent Beach has many signs of the upwardly mobile. New shops have opened in the last decade, including a Wired Monk in a beautiful cedar building with a patio so guests can sit out in the sunlight. There is a new sushi shop I just noticed today. I bought an ice cream cone from the lady at Red Baron who I remember served me ice cream when I was in grade 3. The whole family is there, working in that restaurant. Sometimes one of them is there, sometimes five… they all appear just when they’re needed, as if they can sense the number of customers from their home just upstairs from the place. There is a lovely little yoga studio I’ve gotten to know. The ladies that run it have heart.
One of my favourite parts of visiting the Crescent is wandering the little alleyways behind the beach path, giving access to the beach houses from behind. It’s these back alleys that give you a feel for the local residents. Seeing their driveways, back gardens, storage of sea kayaks and canoes… seeing hats and jackets hanging from hooks, blooms on flowers recently planted, pieces of driftwood, lights on in back rooms, hoses running along the ground as if they just finished watering something. I like these subtle human signs of life.
I am feeling a little under the weather today and I’m taking a day off to rest. Actually the entire team is a little unwell, at least the girls. Typical GI stuff.
I’ve noticed that over the course of my life, especially since starting my international “work” in 2003, people have on occasion told me to “lighten up” about my perspectives on things. I’d like to more closely investigate this. I don’t really mind when people tell me to lighten up, but I would love to understand better what they mean.
For those who know me (well), I’m really content and grateful for the incredible life that I’ve been given. Grateful everyday to this universe. I’ve noticed that for those who know me less well, mostly what they see in me is seriousness. Serious in my work and relationships, not playing very much… being analytical, realistic, pragmatic. (Even though I love to play!) I like to be overly cautious and respectful of any culture I’m visiting; of any new place, new person, or new situation. I feel like through this, I’m showing respect to my fellow human beings. Showing respect to this universe that we’re in.
What does the phrase “lighten up” really mean? To care a little less about what’s happening around me? To worry a little less about inequality and disrespect towards others? To be a little more apathetic about the endeavours in which I’m involved? To let those around me get away with behaviour that I’d rather not be a part of, personally?
Perhaps it just means to smile a little more, to laugh a little more. I love to smile and laugh, actually… of course! (and dance in grocery stores, as my mom can attest to.) Can I not smile and laugh, and still be pragmatic, realistic, respectful of others, careful of my impact… be serious, even? Sometimes I think that people use the term “lighten up” to not try to change my behaviour, but rather, to excuse themselves from their own.
Funnily enough, the basis for yoga is light. Light in your actions, your interactions, your energy, your expression. Creating light, perceiving light, envisioning light. Cultivating light, as I have been doing since starting yoga. Somehow I have to learn how to express this light to those who don’t even know me, while still maintaining the same ethics, caution, respect for those around me. How to do this?
I have safely arrived in arusha with one of my team colleagues, and we are getting settled in. despite the major differences between here and Kigali, I can’t help but feel like they two places are remarkably similar. to the extent that I feel very at home. the major barrier at this point is definitely swahili, so I’ll be doing my best to pick that up as quickly as possible.
Accommodation is very good – three of us to a room and our own bathroom. hot water! In general, i feelt healthy and good so far. A surprisingly good adjustment on my end.
you may notice there are no capitals in this blog, mostly because my keyboard is really sticky. It also took me 20 minutes to load this page, so I’m out of internet time.
Will write more in the coming days. Thinking of you all! xo