Sunday, August 16, 2009

Seeking shelter

Gray weekend. Steady rain, lazy to the last minute, and then, Sunday morning, just as three days of wind and rain strengthened to a howling peak, I went for a ride. Booties and a fleece hat in August, and after the precipitation soaked through, water streamed down my cheeks and into my mouth. It tasted familiar. Like salt and melon-cucumber shampoo, with hints of peat moss and rotting salmon. The taste of early fall.

Low tide. Chum salmon flopped around in a few inches of water at the mouth of Fish Creek, their bodies bleached and flaking, their mouths gaped and gulping at the soaked air. The rest of their lives could probably be measured in minutes, but by nature's cruel design they had already been dead for a while, struggling mere feet from the ocean they were born to escape. I wondered what their offspring would find when they returned here. Would they see the same dead end?

Heavy fog. Fishing boats flickered in and out of the clouds like ghosts in a postmortem search for kings. Rain pattered on the hidden surface of the ocean. A foghorn blew from sources unknown. The little boats circled the quiet chaos, where sky and water melted together in a gray mass, without even a faint line to draw the horizon. The ships could have been flying, but the kings were buried deep.

Rainforest Trail. I disappeared beneath the canopy where raindrops echoed but didn't fall. Spindly spruce trees dressed in moss towered over an explosion of devil's club, fully developed and blazing with red berries, the kind that develop just before the yellow wither of fall. The front wheel dipped down a narrow strip of gravel. I took in gulps of gravity as my body reflexively pendulated through a maze of sharp turns. The forest spit me full-speed onto the beach, with the bike clattering over a carpet of broken shells, and ghost boats skimming the fog, and still-alive salmon leaping toward the sky. Before I could even slow down, the trail turned back into the dark and sheltered woods, and a steep, winding climb, where gulps of gravity turned into gasps of air.

Within minutes, I was back to where I started, the crest of a mile-long loop. So I did the only thing I could do to stay out of the rain - I continued straight and circled, again and again.