“You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.” (Alan Watts)
“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.” (Alan Watts)
I live in Squamish BC, truly one of this planet’s wilderness and mountain paradises. I even get to live in the shadow of the Spirit Rock I climbed for 12 or more years, the Stawamus Chief. As part of a graduate program in Transpersonal Psychology, as well as just because, I headed out for a mindful photographic meditation along the beachfront up the road from where I live – a place called Nexen Beach. I think I must have broken my own time record for dawdling around that trail. This is a walk I have done maybe fifty times over the past decade and although I have walked, or sauntered the trail slowly before, often taking an hour or more, this time it took me 2 hours! I really filled the space as I managed to divide the time with quiet, slow and mindful meditations; numerous acknowledgements to the Great Spirit; photographic opportunities; and some quiet seated meditation embraced by the sound of the waves on the incoming tide.
I was actually a bit surprised that I did not see more cars in the small lot at the start of the trail. It was such a beautiful day and this is a very popular walk. But I do prefer it when I don’t see anyone, which is also why I liked to do the walk in the rain or snow. As I walked past the opening gate the first sounds I noticed were birds. The only ones I recognized were Robins, Geese and Mallard Ducks but there were many more sweet chirping sounds from many types of small birds which filled the air. Although Squamish is known for its high winds (“Squamish” translates to “Mother of the Wind”), where the trail starts at Nexen is protected by a forest and many trees and so although I could hear the wind blowing through the trees and the waves on the Cattermole Slough ahead of me, I could barely sense a breeze where I was.
After I took my first picture I slowed down my pace, started to take in longer and more deliberate breaths, quieted my mind and began to take more notice, and appreciation of, my surroundings – not that I ever have to be reminded twice or too often. I stopped, noticed this lone dandelion and said out loud “thank you Great Spirit for this beautiful life and my own”. As I write this, and become aware once again of the privilege of my own life, with all its ups and downs, I am still overwhelmed to tears. Tears of gratitude for the privilege of this life; tears of sympathy for all those who suffer in the world; tears for my partner’s broken heart when I asked her to move out today; tears for my broken heart for needing to make that decision for my own soul; tears for the lost and possibly irreparable relationship with my son; tears of overwhelming joy and gratitude that I have been gifted with the privilege of this life so as to feel and experience all of these emotions.
After I left my friend the dandelion I swung the camera over my shoulder, made sure it was comfortable and would not slip off and then slowed things down once again, both my feet and my mind, so I could notice the new sounds and smells as I walked along the Cattermole Slough. There is more of a direct line now straight out to the Sound and so I could smell the salt water in the breeze. Across the slough I could see, and hear many Canada geese and Mallard ducks where they nest in the marshes. There was a break in the bushes and so I followed a short trail down to the shores of the Cattermole Slough, sat down on some rocks and took a picture of the rusty remnants of an old choker used for logging.
I then put the camera down and just sat quietly for ten minutes or more. This was a nice spot as I could see the snowcapped peak of Garibaldi to my right, geese and ducks nesting in the marshes across the slough, the windblown waves of Howe Sound to my left and directly behind me was the Chief casting its ever-present and powerful presence over the entire beach and waterways. Just off to my right was a small flower, the name of which escapes me. But as I took notice, and she took notice of me and bobbed in the wind, I said aloud “thank you Great Spirit for this beautiful life and my own”.
After giving thanks to the Great Spirit, I sat a while longer and just tried to empty my mind and sense all the sounds and smells around me. Since we were not far from the shipping terminals, I could also sense just a hint of grease and oil wafting along the salty breeze coming down the Slough from Howe Sound which was only a couple hundred feet further up the trail. After a long, deep and deliberate breath which filled my lungs with cool slightly salty air, I got back up, scrambled across the rocks and back up to the main trail. I took my time, as I always do and instead of turning left at the fork which heads out behind the beach and concrete barriers, I went straight ahead to where the old trail used to come out to the beach. A few years ago the District put up these stone markers along the trail and so I positioned my camera on top of my camera bag, set a timer and snapped a shot with, what else, the Chief behind me. After checking if the shot turned out (3 actually combined into one for wider dynamic range, called High Dynamic Range), I turned around, faced the Chief and said aloud “thank you Great Spirit for this beautiful life and my own”.
I was in my element, I was happy, I was calm and in spite of the recent events in my life, I was and still am, very happy, very grateful and very optimistic about the future. If my life ended at that very moment, in the shadow of the Chief, I would have few regrets and far, far more appreciation, gratitude and thanks for the divine privilege of experiencing and witnessing this sacred place, my own sacred life.
As I walked along the tide rippled sandy shores of Nexen Beach, and felt the cool salty breeze skipping off the waters of Howe Sound, I took off my sandals to feel the sand, water and stones on my feet. The sensation was very cold and as I stepped on some slimy, slippery seaweed, I was reminded of the time I stepped on a slug in bare feet. I then put my camera bag down and just took a long walking barefoot seashore meditation in the sand and waves with my sweats rolled up to my knees. Boy the water was cold but spectacularly refreshing and the salty air and wind was now much stronger and truly felt like Big Ocean. As I approached the other side of the beach which is closest to the Chief, I stopped, took a deep breath and for the last time that evening said aloud “thank you Great Spirit for this beautiful life and my own”. I live in a spectacular wilderness paradise surrounded by the spirits of many coastal and other First Nations people. I give heartfelt and deep thanks to each of them for imbuing their souls, spirits and lives into the sacred lands, rocks, trees, creatures, waters and winds of this Throne Room of Mountain Gods.