Headed to the Beach by Nic Stoltzfus
Earlier this month several of my aunts came south from several different states to spend some time with my family in Florida. Of course, they wanted to go to the beach. I was happy because it’s that time of year in Florida when it starts to get hot and humid, and there’s no better place to be than the beach!
When we reached the end of the boardwalk we all took off our sandals and left them there. I smiled at the other shoes lining the boardwalk, a sign of trust among strangers.
I walked to the shore’s edge and started walking into the water. It still a bit chilly, but it felt good to splash around in the Gulf.
My one aunt remarked to me that her favorite part about being at the beach is the sound of the waves. Another aunt agreed—there is something calming about the ever-neverending cycle of waves breaking on the shore. Perhaps it reminds us of a time before we were born, sloshing and swaying in the womb? Soothing. Perhaps it is that consistent and perpetual beat that calms us. Serenity.
I love talking to other people about their experiences on the beach. One friend said that her favorite thing about a long day at the beach is that “you have this fine little crust of sand, salt, and sunburn all over your skin and hair; I feel like a crunchy, happy person.” Another friend echoed this sentiment, “I might be weird, but I really like saltwater hair…it’s all gross feeling, and I love it!” There is nothing like being tired and dirty after an afternoon in the sun—I always sleep well after a day at the beach!
I swam out further, looked back at my aunts waving at me and then turned around to look at the mass of water before me.
I love the grandness and magnitude of the sea. I feel small, a mere microbe floating and bobbing in an element much larger and more powerful than me. It is humbling. The forces at work along the shore’s edge are dynamic and move with stunning rapidity. I can go walk in the forests of my childhood with sights still unchanged. But I go to the beach one day and the following day it has been visibly altered.
I swim back to the shore and walk up towards my family, the waves pushing me back to them.
There is a force, a great power at work that wipes away the footprints and memories of one day and offering up a clean slate for the next. The sea gives and takes away—at one moment it is a place with angry thunderheads, tsunamis, hurricanes, and typhoons that come crashing down and bearing destruction. This is the power of the great seas of the Earth. Yet, another moment it is soft and gentle—sometimes even the next day, after the rage of a giant storm has passed. It offers gifts: small shells washed upon the shore, bits of seaweed that look like junk to us, but are food for the shorebirds that nibble on them for their livelihood.
Waves crash upon the shore and a gentle salt-scented wind blows past my face as I dig my toes deeper into the mushy sand. I am at the beach, and I am happy and free.
Dune Lakes and Milky Way by Nic Stoltzfus
The beginning of May last year Dad and I went down to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park to do some filming and photography for the Coastal Dune Lakes documentary. The one thing we wanted to accomplish was filming the Milky Way over the dunes since its position in the night-sky was perfect for snapping a good picture. Dad had looked at the star charts and figured out that the Milky Way would be visible starting at around 2 am.
I set the alarm on my phone for 1:50 in the morning. I fell asleep around 10 pm and awoke to the sound of my phone ringing. “Did I sleep at all?” I wondered to myself. I saw lights flash and heard a guttural cycling growl outside and knew that Jeff, the park ranger who was going to take us out to the dunes, was outside in the ATV.
He picked us up and we headed down to one of the dune lakes. It was cool on the dunes at night and the only sound was the steady rolling of waves on the sand and the first peeping of summer crickets. The three of us hiked down to where Dad wanted to set up his shot with the Milky Way framed behind the dunes. Dad set up the Nikon D800 camera on the tripod with part of the outfall from No-Name Lake and the dunes in the foreground and the Milky Way in the background. After framing the shot the way he wanted it, Dad took a picture with a half-minute exposure—this allows for brighter starlight. During this time I painted the dunes with light from an LED film light. The light had a dial on the side to change the brightness from dim to oh-my-god-don’t-shine-that-in-my-face-it’s-blindingly-bright. I painted the dunes with OMG-Bright light and, after the camera shutter clicked shut, we saw a great picture in the viewer. Mission accomplished!
We took a few more photos then hiked back to the ATV. As Jeff drove us back the sliver of a first quarter moon was tipping westward towards the end of her journey across the heavens. I blinked twice and yawned, I am no night-owl. We arrived back at our roost at 5 am and the sky was just beginning to brighten, shaking off the twilight blue of the night to reveal a lighter Berlin blue reminiscent of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” The sky was as blue as that Pacific wave rolling towards the Japanese coast and the stars were a soft silver like snowflakes falling on the peak of Mt. Fuji’s snowy peak. I yawned again and laid down to go to sleep. Goodnight Milky Way, Goodnight Moon. Goodnight Stars, Goodnight Dunes.
The Paddler’s Planet by Christian Wagley
It’s a rare moment for most of us when we stop moving and have nothing specific to do. I recently found myself in such a place, and it brought me a refreshing reminder of the joys of pausing long enough to fully see and appreciate what’s around us.
The occasion was my appointment to visit with a local elected official to discuss community issues. I arrived on-time and was asked to wait in a reception area. I didn’t want to sit down, and since I’m not one to play on my phone, I began to look more closely at what was around me.
The walls were covered in historic photos of my city. There were streetscapes, parades, fishermen, beautiful buildings long since gone, and many more snapshots of an earlier time. I took great interest in one photo of a vibrant street full of people and businesses that today is mostly empty storefronts and a hotspot of crime. It made me think that what once was could be again.
From the fourth floor window I looked out at the back of our city’s original courthouse. I marveled at how closely the large masonry blocks fit together, so perfectly tight in so many ordered rows. More ordered rows marked the roof, as slate tiles overlapped neatly to shed the abundant rain of the Gulf coast. An American flag flew stiffly from the top as a strong south wind blew-in from the bay.
In the courtyard below there were comings and goings, both human and avian. A man sat quietly on a bench as visitors and employees came and went through the secured doors. A male cardinal is his most resplendent red sang from the far end of a tree branch.
Looking high again I followed the many paths of the elaborate cast masonry detailing on an adjacent bank tower built in 1915…arches, floral patterns, cornices that ran around the top. The appeal of the building harkened back to the days when cities and buildings were made to be beautiful rather than cheap.
Gazing farther afield I watched cranes moving cargo from ships at the city port. The blue waters of the bay churned with whitecaps sent by the wind.
Had the commissioner been on time I would not have had the opportunity to stop, to observe, to notice and appreciate so many pleasing elements of the world all around me. It reminded me of an instance years ago when I waited in my car for a freight train to cross the tracks, disgusted at having the progress of my day interrupted. After a few minutes of negativity I caught myself and repackaged the moment to an enjoyable one, endeavoring to never get angry at a train delay again. And I haven’t.
I was due for a similar reminder of the good that can happen when we take a few moments to stop and look around. Thank you, commissioner, for giving me the opportunity to wait.
Finding Peace by Nic Stoltzfus
Where do you find peace? Is peace a place or a state of mind?
All of us look for peace in different ways. For some, peace is attained through music—listening to the fugues of Bach or the calming lullabies of Brahms. For others, peace is found through painting or conversation with friends or just simply day-dreaming. Of course, many of us paddlers find peace on the water. I also find peace with walking and talking with a dear friend.
There are many places that I enjoy walking with friends: Alum Bluffs in Bristol, Torreya State Park, or Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. All of these are found in the piney woods of northwest Florida, what I would call home. They are protected areas set aside so people can enjoy the natural beauty found within. There are miles of trails and plenty of wildlife to enjoy along the way. Plus, it is pretty quiet, so it is easy to hear what my friend has to say.
A few months ago I was staying at Topsail with my Dad and Joey to do some filming. One evening Joey and I decided to walk around the trail at night. As Joey and I walked around, the stars were shining bright in the sky above, the crickets buzzed, and our conversation hummed. We didn’t talk about anything in particular, just whatever came to mind. At one point we stopped and sat down to look up at the night-sky. I could see a bat fly over from time to time. Neither of us said a word, and all felt right with the world.
Walking and talking with myself is good, too, but that produces a different state of mind (as the old saw goes, “It’s okay to talk to yourself…as long as no one answers!”). When I am walking with myself, I both turn inward and outward. It is a time for self-reflection and also taking note of the world around me. Last week I went on a walk down the dirt road I live on after being gone for a week. Wildflowers that weren’t there only seven days ago were blossoming in the ditches and the sweetgum tree, standing lone and tall by the roadside, filled out with the unfurling of its bright-green leaves. Amazing how much changes in so short a time! I continued my walk and a box turtle walked out in the road in front of me. Two thoughts popped into my head. The first was a joke: Why did the turtle cross the road? Because it was following the chicken. The second thought was the first four lines from “Simple Gifts”, the Shaker hymn whose melody was popularized by Aaron Copland in “Appalachian Spring.”
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
Standing Up for the Planet by Bob Purdy
Which of these two things is not like the other, the Heiltsuk First Nation Territory or Area 7.
In fact they are the same thing, yet couldn’t be further apart. They both represent a place on the Planet, in British Columbia, Canada. The same, yet different.
Area 7 is a place in British Columbia, a pristine, wild and raw part of Canada that is teeming with life. Area 7 is a big place, roughly the area between Hunter Island to the south, Price Island to the west, Sarah Island to the north and Cunningham Island to the east. The waters there are home to countless species of marine life including Whales, Salmon, Herring, Kelp Forests, Seals, Urchins, Clams, way too many species to list here. The Land is home to countless species of animals, birds, insects and plant life including Spirit Bear, Wolf, Raven, Eagle, and old growth Cedar forests, ferns, again way too many to list here. Area 7 is a remote place, difficult to access, not the kind of trip one would make on a Sunday afternoon drive. To the Department of Fisheries (DFO) who monitor and regulate marine life in Canada, Area 7 is just one of many places on a map of Canada that falls under their jurisdiction. These places, including Area 7 are represented by numbers and letters on a piece of paper. Area 7, a name on a map, used to define a place does not come anywhere close to describing the place that is its namesake.
The Heiltsuk First Nation call Area 7 “Heiltsuk Territory”. The Heiltsuk Nation have lived in this Territory for thousands of years and know the Land intimately. The place is more than a place to the Heiltsuk, this place is home. The Heiltsuk have lived on this Land sustainably for millennia, they know and understand the relationship between all living things intimately. They know the places in their Territory intimately and have stories that relate to their existence here that go back generations. The Heiltsuk Territory is represented by stories of place, stories of ancestors, their connection to the Land and respect for all life. Every storm is lived, harvesting of food is much the same as it has always been, as stewards of the Land they live with a knowledge and respect of the Land that makes it their Land, their Territory. Heiltsuk Territory, a name used by a People, brings this place to life.
Area 7. Heiltsuk First Nation Territory. One name is sterile, without any real connection to the place. The other name is teeming with life and connection to the Land. Same place, yet the names are Worlds apart. And so are the Ways the place is treated.
Worlds apart is also an apt description for the relationship between DFO and the Heiltsuk First Nation. In the context of this article, the pawn in this relationship are the Herring. DFO does not recognize the Heiltsuk Nations right to care for their territory and the Heiltsuk Nation has been forced to work with DFO as the decision makers regarding marine life in their Territory. Not exactly the basis of a healthy relationship. On a deeper level, there is a distrust generated by centuries of history.
This distrust came to a head this past week. DFO authorized a seine fishery in Area 7 that the Heiltsuk have been counselling is ill advised due to low fish stocks. DFO authorized this fishery without consultation with the Heiltsuk First Nation, a step that is required by law. Response from the Heiltsuk First Nation was swift and strong. They took to the Water to blockade the seine boats, evicted DFO from their office in Bella Bella, stripping them of a ceremonial paddle that was gifted in the process. A small group travelled to Vancouver and they took over the DFO office there as well.
At the heart of this particular battle were fish stock reports. DFO had one number and the Heiltsuk had another, and the numbers were miles apart. The Heiltsuk contended that DFO’s figures were over estimated by more than double. The Heiltsuk estimated that the Herring population is still in recovery, and their estimates came in at half of what DFO’s numbers were. The DFO decided to greenlight the seine fishery based on their own data, and knew they missed an important step by not advising the Heiltsuk Nation. Hindsight would reveal that there was pressure from industry to go ahead with the fishery as well.
Both sides dug their heels in, this situation had the potential to turn into a situation with neither side giving in. The Heiltsuk Nation refused to back down and demanded a complete closure of Herring fishing in their Territory. The DFO stuck to their original estimates of fish stocks and worked to reassure the Heiltsuk that their science and numbers were sound. To make a long story short, the courage of the People of the Heiltsuk Nation, the support of other First Nation, non-First Nation allies and organizations prevailed and the Herring fishery for this year has been closed. Seine fishing boats were escorted out of Area 7, and directed to other central coast territories to fish, which was abandoned due to the lack of fish to catch. The Heiltsuk Nation were correct in their estimates, as they have been for centuries.
I cannot think of a better example of “Standing up for the Planet” than what happened last week in Heiltsuk Territory. At stake was the survival of Herring stocks, and their availability to future generations, in fact a Way of life. The fallout from this is yet unknown, however it appears as though there may be some negotiating in the coming weeks between government and First Nations. Time will tell if these negotiations are the same old, same old, or if there might be some progress made that results in cooperation and mutual respect. As they always have, the Heiltsuk will meet in good faith, fingers crossed the government will do the same…
Ps; there was little to no media coverage of this story…
Pps; Many thanks to the Heiltsuk Nation for “Standing up for the Planet”…