It’s almost the end of August, unbelievably. As I wrote last week, I’m lucky enough to be on the west coast for three weeks, in a tiny little “camping casita.” I’m here alone, with a writing project giving a little shape to my days, an island to explore on my folding bike and feet.
Both Martha and Tracy have written in the past week about the renewal they are finding through “active rest” and unplugging. I’ve been trying to immerse myself in that same kind of “take what comes” kind of flow. Intuitive movement, intuitive eating, intuitive work, intuitive sleeping.
This morning, I woke up at 7, rain on the roof of my tiny little cabin. I got up to trek to my little bathroom, in a separate building, and the dark calico cat that comes sometimes came to visit me. He brought me a mouse, then ate it himself with a big crunch, then muscled his way into my little cabin, walked on my bed, inspected my kitchen, presented himself for a big pet and walked off again. I settled back into bed and slept for another three hours. Bliss.
Yesterday was the first day of big rain. I poked around my little place, had a spur of the moment phone call with my business partner, suddenly felt the urge to go for a run in a lull in the rain and ran further than I’ve been able to do since I developed a nerve problem in my left foot six weeks ago. Clouds eloquent above me. I pulled an apple off a tree as I came in, and ate it looking at a deer near the woods. Hot shower in the outdoor shower in the misty rain, cosy bed afterwards. Bliss.
Sunday, I spent the morning writing on my little porch, then suddenly heard what the sun and warmth were telling me — find a beach. The good beach is about 10 km away, on a hilly (Hilly!) road, and I have my little folding bike with the tiny (Tiny!) wheels. I set my jaw and set out — the hill in the first two km, just outside of town, is daunting. I crowned the biggest hill, got off the too-busy road, and rolled through a quiet, tree lined road.
At the beach, I encountered a guy renting paddleboards just as I started down the path to the ocean. We chatted, I found some cash, I signed a (sanitized) waiver, and then suddenly, I was on paddleboard, just me, flat sea, the bluest sky, dancing with the gentle swells, communing with seals. Two hours of utter, magical bliss. I dusted the sand off my feet, put my shorts back on and rode home.
Monday, I worked in the morning, wondering if I should head back to the beach and try to paddleboard again, looking at the weather that suggested rain later in the week. I listened to the voice that said to hike.
The biggest hiking trail — to the highest point on the island — is 12 (hilly) kilometres away. I tried to piece together the options for trailheads with a couple of websites and google maps, and was reasonably sure I had found one. Because the peak is also accessible by road, it was a bit confusing — it’s a provincial park, but not the kind that has an entry point with a little booth.
I found the trailhead, and paused for a while, trying to parse the contours, the distances. It was 230 when I arrived, and I wasn’t sure I could climb to the peak and down again and still get home before it turned to dusk. I don’t trust my biking on the unlit roads with the lack of shoulders and speeding drivers. I tried to mentally make sense of the many trails, the options to loop around the peak, the height. I took a photo of the map, obscured by the shadow of my phone in the high sunlight.
I climbed — steep, hot, lonely, dry. At the first viewpoint, I began to understand its power, the harbour where my bike was already far below me, sea on both sides of me. Another crosspoint, then another, then a decision that I might as well keep going to the top. It was so steep that I had to pause every couple of minutes to catch my breath, stretch out my hunkered shoulders. Just me, the sunlight flickering through the huge trees, the trail. Another turn, another decision, a massive fallen old growth tree with a huge cut out for the path to cross. Going through my water faster than I expected.
Then, an opened up panorama. Sea and harbour in all directions, fields. Salt Spring Island once grew more fruit than the Okanagan, a friend had told me. Pure verdancy.
I found the peak. No drinking water, which I’d hoped for. Just a parking lot, one car, one couple, an outhouse washroom. I chatted with the couple, sitting on a bench soaking in the immense space, asked them if there was any way they might spare any water. They did, we talked, I heard their story. Originally from the UK, living in BC for 20 years, moving back to be with grandchildren. We waved, I left and sat and ate an apple at the panorama. Made my way down to my bike — much more difficult technically — then rode back to town, dusk starting to gather and my stomach rumbling. Took myself straight to my favourite little cafe, changed my shirt in the bathroom and drank a local cider and ate a huge meal.
Wednesday morning, as the clouds gathered? Writing on my deck again, and then an hour of yoga. Letting Adriene tell me what to do as I practiced outside, added tree and crow and some hip stretches I needed. An impulsive pub dinner because I craved a steak. A late night binge of four engrossing episodes of a show I’d missed before it got canceled.
Two weeks of this intuitive, listening life, this life outside, letting my actions be guided by what I feel like doing? I’m restored. My regular life has so many great things in it — people I love, and structured workouts with our superhero team, and work work work, and carefully slotted in runs. Pushup progressions and acupuncture. Cats who demand to be fed at a particular time. Here, just me, my body, my sense of time and space — this absence of structure has given me complete movement to rest, to restore, to strengthen, to breathe, to run further and climb higher.
August is made for this kind of elastic time, this kind of intuitive listening, this moving for play and exploration, not repetition and discipline. Looking into the fall and winter we’re expecting, I ponder how to keep this elasticity alive. How to keep nurturing this kind of active emptiness.
What about you? What are you finding restorative right now? How are you planning for fall?
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, currently dancing with the waves and hills on Salt Spring Island.