Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sometimes I worry…

There is a place I like to be on windy days, a rocky pinnacle on a spit of land that juts out into the ocean, a lonely place where only gulls and curlews visit, the rocks spattered with their droppings, feathers and bits of fish skeletons clinging to the clumps of bushes that withstand the buffeting of Atlantic storms.

It’s a two-hour hike just to get there, so I don’t wait for windy days, the maritime weather being so changeable that it’s rarely the way it started out when I reach my goal. It’s a hard climb, too, so I don’t often meet other hikers on the trail, only the seasoned backpackers who regularly seek out near-vertical scrambles up the glacially-striated rocks. The spit is off the main trail anyway, a time waster for anyone anxious to get to the next exit to civilization.

That’s one of the reasons I like it so much: I’m never bothered there. I can go with my lunch in a knapsack, a sketchbook, writing pad, and spend hours in blessed solitude, communing with nature. And what glorious nature it is! Even when the sea is calm, the surf still crashes against the jagged rocks, upjutting blades that millennia of waves have still not worn smooth.

On stormy days the water is wild, the wind whips up foam and froth, the spray is spread even as far as the remote pinnacle where I perch, protected only by rain gear and a sou’wester tied under my chin. The gulls cry and wheel and swoop and the place is so desolate and god forsaken, I feel as though I’m the only human being in the world and nature is unaware that I am observing its bad behaviour.

When I am seated there on the rock, witness to the waves’ wanton wildness, I am free to draw, to write, or to think. The sketchbook is just an excuse if anyone asks why I go out there, and on occasion I actually do produce a drawing or two, but it’s really just a prop, a superfluous item without which my pack would probably be lighter. I spend most of my time there staring out to sea, watching the changing cloud formations, observing the gulls as they hunt for food to feed their nestlings. I like the way the water is never the same at any given moment, how it is constantly in motion. I never tire of watching the spray dash off the rocks below.

But sometimes I just think, totally unaware of my surroundings as they recede into the background and I get lost in the maze of my own mind. I think about anything: the events of the week, movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read. Sometimes I worry about decisions I’ve made and how they will affect the future. Sometimes I make up stories, tales of fancy that may or may not actually end up in that notebook I carry. Other times I paint large canvases in my mind that have nothing to do with the scene before me.

My favourite days are the ones where I return home from my trek tired, hungry, dirty, and with absolutely nothing material to show for it. It is my escape into a different world where time slows down or stops, where nothing I do can affect anyone else, where the call of the curlew and the whistling of wind are the only meaningful language.

The winter months when I cannot hike to my peninsula are painful for this reason, the summer that much sweeter therefor. If I could, I would turn my fur to feathers and become a gull, making my home by the ocean, nesting on the rocky crags, at one with the wind and the waves, letting my plaintive cry ride above the howling of the storm; and there, overlooking the ocean with my yellow eye, I wouldn’t worry any more.


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