Unfortunately, for lack of camping equipment and vehicle, my chosen places of worship were inaccessible. Thankfully there were other places nearby where I could find what I needed: my mountains and ocean and some solitude. I put on my walking sandals and half an hour later, there I was - sitting on a rock with my feet in the salt water and suddenly, life was a little better.
I mean, how could it not be? On a warm rock, with cool water; the sun hot on one side of my face with the wind brushing the other; seeing the sparkling reflection of the evening sun on the waves with the sound of them all around me. Those waves wash everything away. Even my barnacle-scraped toe was healed up by the time I got up.
Because the ocean is alive, you know; you can see it breathe as the waves curl up around the rocks. The regular breaths that keep things alive, with the occasional deep inhalation that submerges more of the rock and makes tidal pools disappear momentarily.
I love tidal pools. It didn't take me long to find a really neat one. It was maybe 10 inches long and 5 deep and had a dozen anemones, a few crabs, with the usual array of hermit crabs and barnacles. It was the perfect time of day to watch the miniature ecosystem at feeding time. One of the crabs was tiny - smaller than than very large barnacle right beside it! The large barnacles did not seem to be eating very much, but the tiny ones were almost continuously extending their feathered legs to catch whatever microscopic organisms were on the menu. I wondered if they needed to eat more often because they had a lot of growing to do, or just that because they couldn't reach as far, they had more competition.
Another pool had a far more aggressive breed of hermit crab. These guys were not the tiny ones I saw before, but were bigger - some almost as big as a quarter - with vicious looking yellow stripes and surprising amount of speed. They really dug into whatever they were eating, and a couple of them decided to attack each other at one point. "EXTREME HERMIT CRAB FIGHTING" came to mind. I thought it was pretty cool, but the rockfish seemed far less impressed.
After a few more tidal pools, I waded around and climbed to another, less protected area to sit on a significantly higher rock and watch the significantly higher waves. The tide must have been coming in because the heaving ocean created some impressive spray. I sat there for hours, just watching the waves come in and get sucked back out. If I really watched for it, I could see the interference patterns as the waves coming in crossed with ones that had already hit the rocks. Physics is beautiful. The world is beautiful.
A friend recently asked me whether I would miss the oceans or mountains more if I had to move away. My first thought was that I couldn't choose, but then I got to thinking that it might be mountains. Pictures of sandy beaches never did much for me, but I love mountain ranges. I've also always felt at home when in the Rockies, while the Prairies absolutely give me the heebie-jeebies.
But as per usual, my first impression was the right one. I can't choose. Growing up on the west coast, the two are inextricably linked to me. Take away the mountain rock and the coast is just...long and sandy. But without the ocean? Without the waves crashing around those rocks? Without that...life? It wouldn't be right either. Might as well make it a holy trinity and add forests. I can't live without those, and no that's not blasphemy, dammit. I live very close to heaven on earth and I doubt anyone who's spent any time at all on the rocky shores of BC will disagree.
And so, when I found myself at that most massive of cathedrals, I knew I'd be there a while. It's a growing place, a healing place, a place of life. The kind of place I know I need to go back to again, and again, and again.
What will I miss if I have to leave the coast again?
I'll miss being alive.