Saturday 14 November 2009

Kissinger Lake

Vancouver Island Backroad Mapbook Fouth Edition - Map 9 A1
Atlas of Canada Link: Kissinger Lake
Degrees, Minutes, Seconds: 48° 55' 15" N 124° 28' 53" W
Decimal Degrees: 48.921° N 124.481° W
UTM Coordinates: 10U 391470 5419726

Topographic Map Sheet Number: 092C16

Trip Date: June 30, 2009

In the canoe beside me two men cooperate. Patient, they talk out their preferences, a way to paddle together, a civilization of two. I am in a single, responsible only for myself, able to watch human friendship set against a precedent beauty.

Right now they paddle along a shoreline of giant broad leaf maples, the sun illuminating several layers of canopy, leaves like mirrors turning the light away from the dark under story, only the greens getting through, so that even the death of rotten wood and humus is coloured the shade of deep green water. The sun also breaks through to patch the lake with ragged beams through which the paddlers go, paddles glinting brightly on the forward swing.

As is often the case at times like these I think about all this matter bathed in the filtered fission energy that powered out from our very own star. This matter itself the result of ancient cataclysmic star deaths, all those years ago, worked on by time and sunlight, scaled into beings that can balance inside a curving hull. Also, the distant and ancient breath of stars that moved relentlessly through nothing, till it ended abruptly at something, this ball of coagulated earth.

And on the ball, moving like a plague, we engineer a sickness for our grandchildren, a hurdle too high for most animals, no matter how frantically they leap. A rain of bees drops off the grid, a storm of frogs thunders out of existence, the cascade of death like Della falls, spectacular in it's long streak upon the dark stone of history. Only a few of us turn to look, only the odd cocked ear, only a rusty stain of inquisitive sadness on the soul of a few sunburned biologists and we children of privilege. For the majority of us humans existence is a dust of dried sweat and grime to salt our dwellings at the end of a long hard day in the sun. Salt and dust. What we are made of, what we make of things.

Who moves like the moon upon the night, who glides like mist upon a lake, who rides like clouds across a crystal tarn? Not me. Not us. We go down on things, violent scavengers, cunning as knives. And each blow releases from us a larynx keened cry, saddle shinny and brittle as glass, the cry of conscious paradox. What we must do to live is an exquisite sacrifice; we must die a little with each bite we take. Today, for me, it is a swath of forest beyond this happy mere. Today for me it is salty tears for the gaps in that forest.

One of the paddlers with me is a leader in environmentally responsibility. Car poor, bike powered, vegetarian, energy efficient, example to me and others, his values pounding out of him like heartbeats. He has ridden his bike around Cowichan Lake. Not something I would ever do. The other paddler, like me, makes a sincere effort. Middle class piety from our deepest hearts. I felt our good intentions like fellowship as we bounced from pot hole to pot hole in my 4 wheel drive to get to this oasis of calm. Burned fossil fuel mixes with dust along the logging road that leads to Kissinger Lake. A wake of carbon to get to the pristine nature we long to see before it is gone.
On the way here we passed three logging trucks, two with old growth trees filling their trailers. Yes they are still cutting away at the 20% of old growth left on the island. Only 110 hectares of protected Douglas-fir forest remain on the east coast of Vancouver Island, while just two percent have been set aside as federal, provincial and regional parks. It's open season on the rest. According to the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, BC Government studies estimate that the current level of cutting is 30 percent above sustainability. The knives of the forest companies spin on chains. Shouts of "timber" echo across each section cut. The forest peels away like the skin of a fruit under the thumb of hungry homo sapiens. Logs from private land are sent away for someone else to use. On Vancouver Island we are mainly cutters now, working for overlords. Even pulp is mostly made elsewhere. Cutters and scavengers caked in salt and saw dust. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

Two dragon flies collide above me; distract me with their paper crinkling sounds, like paper swords clashing. This particular variety is birdlike with their wing patches and silvery bodies. Damsel flies, two kinds, sway above my gunwales, deciding to land or not. A rough skinned newt surfaces, then begins her lazy decent to the bottom again. I photograph a floating garden, this one featuring a central strand of Sticky False Asphodel and a fringe of Marsh Cinquefoil and the insect eating Sundew, drops of nectar glistening in the sun.