It has been 15 hours since the heavy rain started.
Tucked into my sleeping bag, the sound of the water droplets falling on the tent like an endless drum roll, the clarity of what has been happening these last two months just dawned on me and I just can’t help myself but start laughing.
The fact that I had planned to be in Hawaii at this time, diving and kayaking with the humpback whales makes this spiritual awakening even more ludicrous. As much as I would have wanted the reality to be different, the message was clear and all around me—patience needed to be embraced. In our culture of instant gratification, the meaning of this word has almost become taboo. Still, from time to time, we are forced to confront its undeniable necessity. And once again, my time in nature was responsible for bringing me perspicuity.
In our Western society, the word patience denotes a more negative etymology, finding its root in the Latin patientia, from patient: “suffering.” But in Asia, the meaning takes a completely different approach and tries to bring forward the ability to wait and find peace, acceptance and dignity in the unexpected and uncontrollable.
In China, the pictograph for patience is composed of two symbols— Ren which illustrates the blade of the knife and Xin for heart. The meaning being: “The sword blade is poised, ready to slice. Backed into this corner, we cannot move. When we don’t know which way to turn, or where to go, any movement at all can not only further muddy the water but can also bring disaster: the sword blade severs the heart and all is lost. Thus, the value of patience.” (Nonin Showiness)
In Japan, the word is nintai which can be translated as an “obligation to take another direction.”
Gaman, “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity,” is one of the teachings of Zen Buddhist.
The plan was to leave in the morning, paddling back to Tofino. A combination of misjudgment on my behalf and the missing adapter to charge my batteries had left me with no more power for the camera. Being on Vargas Island to photograph the wolves, my presence here now was simply leading to nothing—I would rather leave than face the possibility of being presented with a perfect photo opportunity and having no camera to photograph with.
A wolf had appeared to me on the very first day of my arrival—his prints were on the beach, fresh from the morning.
After setting up camp, the lone wolf had ventured around my tent.
I am always perplexed by the timing of things. How and why we get to be at a precise place at a precise time, precisely when someone or something else happens to be there.
Coincidence? Meant to be? A bit of both?
In this case, I had been hiking the beach, collecting mussels for dinner when I decided to get something from the tent. Grabbing what I needed, I stood up zipping the tent flap when I noticed right in front of me the wolf coming out through the trees.
He was brown and black, tall, the size of a huge dog. But his pose was not aggressive—more like an intruder trying to sneak his way in—this was not a dangerous predator imposing his rule on a newcomer. Maybe it was because he was alone without his pack—we know how humans act differently when by themselves, alone, as opposed to when they feel protected from being in a group. My guess is that the law of collective courage is no different independently of if you are wolf or a human.
Anyhow, when he saw me, he retreated and I knew in the back of my mind his next destination—the food cache.
I silently followed the ruffles of leaves and hid behind a tree. As predicted I saw him coming around to investigate the metal box where my food was stored. Slightly moving to get a better view, I stepped on a branch and the unfortunate breaking noise scared the wolf away.
I was not to see any of him for the next five days.
Now that I wanted the leave the island, the weather was not allowing me. And this is how these last two months came to be summarized into this precise moment—in a tent battered by the rain, realizing that all of this was beyond my control. Like the fog lifting and suddenly revealing the unexpected landscape, I was forced to accept the moment.
There was nothing I could do but find peace in the unforeseen. Not just about the fact that I was being held captive on Vargas Island, but that I had to accept that all my plans for the beginning of 2014 were totally at the opposite of what had actually happened—sheltered from what I had taken from granted, I was being reminded of the fragility of what I had and the price that I had to pay to keep it.
The rain and wind came to pass and the next day, a heavy fog took over and assumed the role of deciding on my captivity. I was not being allowed departure. Only the next day did a window present itself. With a strong northerly wind, my original idea to circumnavigate the island had to be put aside. Pushing with all my might I departed from the beach, turned the point, beating the wind and finding myself in a favorable position, riding the tide and wind, only having to deal with the exposed Pacific.
I don’t know what the future has in store for me.
What I do know, is that from sitting into my kayak riding a wave, a river, or the ocean swell, I have control on how to react to the unexpected. I cannot predict or even anticipate the unforeseen but I can be ready to adapt to whatever is thrown my way and have trust in my capacity to handle the flow. The key is to patiently wait, breath, relax and know when to move.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Apprentice Editor: Kathryn Muyskens / Editor: Cat Beekmans
Photo: pike JO/Flickr