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Joie de vivre

Inside Passage

Wilderness is a ferocious intoxication which sweeps over your senses with rinsing vitality, leaving you stripped to the vivid, your senses rubbed until they shine.
~Jay Griffiths

When my mind cycles back to my Inside Passage journey, it cinematically rewinds through the hundreds of images stored deep in its recesses. The idyllic setting of my last campsite is forever etched in my mind’s eye, as bold and colorful as it was that summer day. A babbling brook, brilliant pink fireweed, snowcapped mountains, floating icebergs, and a family of whales playing right outside my door all flirted with my senses. A smooth pebble beach, a flat open area for my tent, and the absence of bugs or bears rounded out my nirvana. It was absolute perfection. Pure abundance. Sheer joy.

On that day, I was immersed in the art of lingering and completely spellbound by my surroundings. I soaked it all in, much like a dog would soak up the last rays of sunshine on her back porch. My heart swelled with delight. My soul soared. I let the entire scene wash over me, then absorb me, until I became one with its exquisite beauty. It was a deep gift of gratitude and satisfaction that went far beyond the physical beauty I was experiencing.

Like many people, I often struggled with inattentiveness, stuck in “monkey mind mode,” where my body is on autopilot and my mind plays hopscotch, a frenzied skipping from one thought to the next. But in those moments, I was fully participating in my life, utterly enriched by all the sensations imparted from this scene.

My 66-day journey had slowly cultivated a sense of freedom, of sovereignty within me, and this particular moment was the most in-the-moment feeling I have ever experienced. It’s where I go when I need a time-out—when I need to find my “happy place.”

I was nearing the end of my journey, yet I wasn’t departing this scene with even a hint of sadness. I had the Inside Passage entirely to myself, and I liked it that way. But it was time to go. A few extra sun salutations, one last look around, one last seashell tucked behind my seat, and I shoved off, stern first into an early morning breeze. It was July 9th, 2010.

My heart filled with gratitude, and my eyes filled with tears. Afloat, I scanned my last campsite one final time for forgotten items. Nothing remained except the bent grass where my tent had been, and the shallow depression in the sand where I sat a few hours earlier. Soon it would be filled with the next high tide.

This journey had helped me slow down enough to truly become present in my life, at least for the moment. Patience had become a moderately toned muscle. This was a feeling I wanted to hold onto and to re-create over and over again. Years later, I can still frame this image in my mind’s eye and see and feel and hear all the beauty and then extend that to the experience as a whole. The sense of being truly present with a heightened awareness that goes beyond a sensory awareness and taps into an emotional awareness, a conscious awareness. That’s where the magic happens!

What are you feeling gratitude for today? What vivid images can you pull from your past that remind you of acute in-the-moment experiences or a feeling of bliss that was determined far more by your inner state than by your outer circumstances?

Inside Passage is part of BC’s marine trail network. Read more article in our Coastal Cafe.

Inside Passage

Susan Conrad

While working on my first book, I refused to be that untold story. But my refusal didn’t come easy while navigating the birth of that first book. It’s much easier for me to sit in a wobbling kayak on the ocean, than in a steady office chair in front of a computer. I discovered that paddling the Inside Passage was the easy part. Living that experience, then writing about that experience, trying to craft it into a relatable story, and then getting that story published, was much more daunting. At times, nothing felt as exasperatingly impossible, not even arduous forty-mile days, fierce head winds, or mountainous swell—as writing did.

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