Beach on the Clayoquot Sound in a deep morning fog.

Balancing Clayoquot Sound

Tofino’s small town center slopes toward the Clayoquot Sound, facing Meares Island and several smaller islets, fjords and marine passageways.  In the distance are coastal mountains.  We walk down to the docks, where crabbers, sailboats and whale-watching boats are moored.  In the bay, a handful of kayakers are returning from an overnight outing.

You might think of the cold water of the Pacific Northwest as cold and lifeless.  But underneath the docks is a magical world of multi-hued anenomes and tunicates, strangely shaped jellyfish, and bright starfish.  It is this undersea world I never want to miss showing my son.  We spend the late afternoon poking our heads at the water, watching fish go by.  

Lying on the docks for so long exacerbates my skateboarding injuries, and when I stand, I feel dizzy.  We walk back into Tofino, and we see an old, rusty bicycle, a model that appears to be from the World War II era. 

“You like my bicycle,” a twenty-something girl sees us staring at her bike.  We explain that indeed we do.  The girl came to Tofino for the summer, from Chile.  She bought the bike when she got here.  “And I’m quite proud of it too,” she says.  Her boyfriend gets around town on a longboard.  “What brought you here?” we ask.  “It is the perfect place to learn English,” she explains.  Is this girl a scrubbie?  Perhaps she, like the Canadians who flock here, might better be described as a refugee in Cascadia.

 A few days later, I am repacking and preparing for our drive home.  I hear the news about the toddler that was just attacked by the cougar, surgery from two fractures to his skull had gone well, and he is making a full recovery.

The sun is shining brightly above, but it comes through dappled in the forest.  I take a look at the skateboard in the truck.  Just a few weeks ago, I gave myself the worst injury of my life trying to prepare for this trip.  Should a 38-year-old really be skateboarding?  The injury made me ponder the safety of travel and the sports that go along with it.  People always say – that’s dangerous, don’t do it.  They also say, all the time, do this, it keeps you young.  Is the constant buzz we hear – don’t do that, stay young, don’t do that, stay young – consistent?  I don’t think so.  My injury reminds me that I had let go of the balance between safety and the pursuit of life.  My injury taught me that I’m not 18 anymore.  My injury reminded me about caution. I think that in life, the advice that matters most is less about age and avoiding danger, and more about balance.

Then I stand on my board, and it feels good, and I bomb the asphault road through the quiet trees.